Sudden Pear tree death

I am not sure what happened…pretty new to all this, but I had a pear tree that has been in the ground for about a year and a half suddenly die on me. Saturday all seemed fine, but then Sunday it started looking yellow and then boom, by Monday it appeared it was a gonner.

These are some pics of the tree this evening (Tuesday). It looked almost identical to the trees behind it as of Saturday (at least from what I remember), and was planted at the same time a year and a half ago. I check my trees almost every day and especially on the weekends. I am just surprised how quick this happened.

Charlie where do you live? And have you heard of cotton root rot? It’s worst on calcareous soils in central Texas. Kills all sorts of things like fruit trees very suddenly in summer.

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I live about 30 miles North of Dallas. Not sure of our exact soil but there is definitely some heavy clay in it. When I plant my fruit trees in February it takes pretty much all my might to dig the holes :wink:

The tree does seem a bit loose in the soil now, I didn’t notice it being loose before. I also found a grub near the trunk today that I promptly squished.

We had a ton of rain in the spring, but now it is hitting the normal pattern for summer here with sweltering heat and no rain.

Also, if you notice the hole near the trunk is still wet. I gave all the trees a decent soaking yesterday, but with the amount of heat and sun all the trees dry up fairly quickly, except this one…it is still muddy around the trunk, weird??

Ha, from reading a bit about Cotton Root Rot, I definitely hope it is NOT the case…even though it does sound like it. I guess we shall see.

Charlie, I notice your lawn is very weed-free. I also see in the photos a lot of whitish colored granules. Have you applied a granular weed-n-feed to your lawn? This is no doubt a common conclusion to jump to, but it is so because it is so often the case that sudden death syndrome is self inflicted. That tree is short enough and small enough that the errant herbicide granule from a broadcast spreader could very easily kill it dead.
Is it just a granular fertilizer that you applied?
The tree in question is clearly smaller and was exhibiting much less growth than those behind it. It could be it was doomed from the start for a whole host of different reasons.
I see no obvious signs of fungal or insect issues and that makes me lean heavily in the direction of plant homicide in one manner or another.

These trees also appear (to me) to be planted way too close together, especially for pears. Obviously this didn’t in any way contribute to the problem, but just saying.

I agree with everything Appleseed said.That tree died from errant herbicide and
your trees are planted too close to each other.

The granules you see are Miracle grow fruit tree fertilizer that I spread out about a month prior. I did use a granular fertilizer on my lawn recently but it was not a weed and feed. I had used a granular herbicide early in the Spring twice, but that was back in early March and mid-April. I did keep it away from that side of the yard though.

What in CA you can plant trees inches apart and in TX feet apart doesn’t work? And he didn’t apply any herbicide. It would be unlikely to kill one tree and not damage those “too close by”.

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From what I am reading it definitely seems like Cotton Root Rot. All the symptoms seem to be there. In Texas it is more prevalent further South but has been seen up in my area. My hope is that it does not take down all of my trees. I am definitely going to pull this tree and not plant anything in that hole again. Obviously I am not certain, but from the description below it does appear to be spot on.

Here is a quip about Cotton Root Rot from Texas A&M:

Cotton Root Rot

This fungal disease is also known as Phymatotrichum root rot, Texas root rot and Ozonium root rot. It is caused by one of the most destructive fungal plant disease organisms, Phymatotrichum omnivorum, that can attack more than 2,000 species of plants. However, monocotyledonous plants (grasses, etc.) have field resistance. In Texas, the disease is economically important in cotton, ornamentals and fruit, nut and shade trees. The fungus is prevalent in calcareous clay loam soils with a pH range of 7.0 to 8.5 and in areas with high summer temperatures. Therefore, the disease is limited to the Southwestern United States.

Cotton root rot has been reported in Texas counties from the Red River to the Rio Grande and from Tom Green County to the Neches River.

Disease Symptoms – Symptoms are most likely to occur from June through September when soil temperatures reach 28 °C (82 °F). The first symptoms are slight yellowing or bronzing of the leaves. The upper-most leaves wilt within 24 to 48 hours after bronzing, followed by wilting of the lower leaves within 72 hours. Permanent wilt occurs by the third day, followed by death. The leaves remain firmly attached to the plant. Affected plants die suddenly, often after excellent growth. Trees and shrubs may die more slowly.

Roots are usually extensively invaded by the fungus by the time wilting occurs. Affected plants can be pulled from the soil with little effort. Root bark is decayed and brownish, and bronze colored wooly strands of the fungus are frequently apparent on the root surface.

The fungus generally invades new areas by continual slow growth through the soil from plant to plant. It may also be moved about on roots of infected plants moved to new areas. The fungus can survive in the soil for many years and often is found as deep in the soil as roots penetrate. Affected areas often appear as circular patterns of dead plants. These areas gradually enlarge during the season or in subsequent years as the fungus grows through the soil from plant to plant. Infested areas in cotton may increase 5 to 30 feet per year in cotton.

Causal Organisms – Phymatotrichum omnivorum exists in the soil in three distinct forms:

I’d pull out the tree and see if the root symptoms match CRR. That tree isn’t going to recover so might as well be autopsied.

That is the plan. Fruitnut, thanks for pointing me in the right direction. I was definitely puzzled as to what happened, and while not a certainty, it is nice to have an area of focus.

I hope it’s not CRR. I’m thankful it’s not here. I guess our soils don’t get hot enough.

Right or wrong I have trees planted 3-4 feet apart and they are flouishing.

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You’d hate to see my trees if you think that’s bad.

Fruitnut…I suppose you could plant them on top of one another if you wished, but they are (imo) too close for optimal growth due to shading and whatnot. Herbicide most certainly would not be unlikely to kill a tree that small. I know because shamefully I’ve done it myself on more than one occasion. Furthermore, I mentioned it as one possibility only and ONLY as a possibility.
Broadcast granular fertilizer only kills the plant who’s foliage the herbicide granule comes into contact with. So YES of course, it could kill just one and not the others, that’s how it works and how it’s intended to work. Also, there was no mention whatsoever prior to my post about lawn herbicides being used or not used. (???)

Maybe Charlie is shooting for the DWN concept of multiple trees in a hole. OK. Or, maybe they are just planted too closely. IMO (fwtw) they are.

Condolences on your pear tree Charlie! Fingers crossed that you don’t have cotton root rot. Up here in Northern California if that happened I would have guessed that a gopher ate all the roots overnight, but not down where you are. Even if a gopher hopped a train to your area, he/she wouldn’t be able to tunnel through your clay, from the sound of it!

I think you’ll find that most if not all broadcast granular herbicides work primarily thru the roots not the foliage. Roots on trees even that small will be overlapping. So it would be difficult to kill one and not damage the other. Herbicides intended to work thru the foliage are applied in a solution to the foliage.

They most certainly do not, they work through the foliage, that’s why you are instructed to apply when the foliage is wet…so it adheres. That goes for every single brand of lawn treatment I know of. It’s also true of all the liquid based sprays I know of as well. The root destruction is accomplished via leaf absorption. That’s how they work fruitnut.
They have no intentional root function at all.

I am not sure what autopsy one can do without a microscope (100-200X). The cruciform hyphae are diagnostic as no other plant pathogen is known to have them. But spotting their brownish mycelia by eye or with a magnifying glass (at least 10X) on a dirty root is not so easy.

Delayed planting makes no difference. While any infectious mycelium will die back the sclerotia can readily live dormant near indefinitely in the soil awaiting a plant root to make contact and have been found down to 12 feet depth. If the organism is present in your soil it is present in your soil. You will likely lose the rest either this summer or the next two if the rootstocks are all the same. But I have to admit it is a weird finger of fate kind of disease. Sometimes trees predicted to be next get skipped for no obvious reason.

By now the leaves should be completely dried on the tree and intact. In fact you should not be able to readily dislodge any part of them if it is Texas Root Rot (TRR) (aka Cotton RR and Ozonium).

The fact you note poor drainage in that specific planting site rather than the others may indicate poor drainage indicative of allowing some other root rot. When you decide to dig down, does the soil in the area appear waterlogged, black with a foul odor?

Presumably your soils are alkaline as you are correct TRR is only found in the arid alkaline soils of the southwest. This fungus thrives in the heavy, calcareous, alkaline soils causing poor soil drainage of the southwest and south central United States and is present throughout the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Soils low in organic matter are associated with the disease as well. It is most common in the low desert areas where winters are mild, but also occurs at higher elevations, up to at least 5000 ft.

If your property was once alfalfa or cotton fields and flood irrigated would increase the odds of TRR being present.

If you find any of the characteristic brown hyphae I would take them into a Master Gardener or Cooperative Exchange Plant Diagnostic clinic. I’d call ahead and confirm testing availability. Unless their protocol says otherwise, collect several samples of rotting and discolored roots on which the outer or cortical tissue still remains attached. The samples should be pencil size or slightly larger and at least 6 inches long. Leave soil attached and keep the roots cool in a plastic bag (refrigeration is fine). Do not add water or wet paper towels. Submit the sample. [protocol per Jeff Schalau] The sooner after digging up you transport it the better.

This fungus can infect (likely) all dicots (over 2,800 species and growing last count). There is no known treatment for homeowners [some EPA approved commercial antifungals applied to annual fields] or preventative. Some rootstocks or species appear resistant. These are area natives and plants exhibiting drought tolerance … though eventually TRR may take them as well, usually in the hot summer months once soil temps exceed 80F a foot down and the air temperature in the plant canopy is above 104°F.

Citation and Mazzard (cherry) rootstocks appears very susceptible. I no longer plant them. All my losses have been on this until this year when I lost a apricot on Lovell likely due to it [It like another cherry-plum on Citation never broke dormancy while my last cherry on Mazzard swelled up its buds beautifully, popped its first leaf and promptly died. Months later it is still perfectly preserved leading me to believe TRR killed all three. All 3rd year in ground. First losses other than summer.]

“treatments:” [really best practices]
1. Infrequent deep waterings, only when needed

2.  Maintain soil pH at 6.5+/-0.3

3.  Heavy organic mulch layer to lower soil temperature and increase organic concentration

4.  Avoid susceptible rootstocks, plant "resistant" rootstocks

5.  Dust or wet bareroots with beneficial soil inoculum before planting trees [2007 ref shows distribution map]