Apple scab and pear scab are two fungal diseases that cause dark, scabby marks on the fruit and leaves of apples, pears and some other ornamental fruits. They are so similar that they are dealt with in the same way.
Common name Apple scab
Scientific name Venturia inaequalis, Venturia pyrina
Main symptoms Dark, scabby marks on fruit and leaves
Plants affected Apples, pears, some other trees and shrubs
Caused by Fungus
Timing Mid-spring onwards
What are apple scab and pear scab?
Apple scab is a disease caused by the fungus, Venturia inaequalis, which spreads by airborne spores and survives the winter on fallen leaves. Expect scab marks to appear on leaves from mid-spring until leaf fall in autumn.
This is a disease specific to apples and a few other other trees and shrubs including Cotoneaster, Pyracantha and Sorbus. A closely related fungus, Venturia pyrina, causes a similar disease called pear scab on fruiting and ornamental pears only.
You may see the following symptoms:
On leaves: Patches of olive-green spots or blotches appear, which are initially velvety as they release airborne spores, and then darkening. Affected leaves often fall prematurely
On twigs: Infections cause blistering and cracking that can then provide entry for the apple canker pathogen
On fruit: Black scabby blotches develop and, as the fruit matures, these restrict expansion of the skin, leading to distortion and cracking. Light attacks only damage the skin and eating quality is hardly affected (though the disease is commercially very serious, because growers cannot easily sell scabby fruit). However, if the fruits crack as a result of scab they become prone to fruit rots and will not store well
Pruning out twigs that are blistered, and disposing of fallen leaves and infected fruit will reduce the amount of fungus available to start infections in the next season. Unfortunately, this is generally of little value unless the trees are isolated, because the spores can be blown for long distances.
Some apple cultivars are resistant to infection, including:
‘Adam’s Pearmain’, ‘Alfriston’, ‘Ashmead’s Kernal’, ‘Barnack Beauty’, ‘Beauty of Bath’, ‘Brownlees Russet’, ‘Charles Ross’, ‘Cheddar Cross’, ‘Claygate Pearmain’, ‘Cockle Pippin’, ‘Cornish Aromatic’, ‘Cornish Gilliflower’, ‘Court Pendu Plat’, ‘Crawley Beauty’
‘D’Arcy Spice’, ‘Discovery’, ‘Duke of Devonshire’, ‘Edward the Seventh’, ‘Ellison’s Orange’, ‘Emneth Early’, ‘Encore’, Epicure’, ‘Exeter Cross’
‘Golden Reinette’, ‘Grenadier’, ‘Ingrid Marie’, ‘John Standish’, ‘King of the Pippins’, ‘King Russet’, ‘Lane’s Prince Albert’, ‘Lord Derby’, ‘Lord Hindlip’
‘Melba’, ‘Merton Russet’, ‘Millers Seedling’, ‘Monarch’, ‘Mother’, ‘Newton Wonder’, ‘Orleans Reinette’, ‘Park Farm Pippin’, ‘Pinova’, ‘Ponsford’
‘Rajka’, ‘Red Devil’, ‘Reinette du Canada’, ‘Resi’, ‘Reverend W. Wilks’, ‘Rosemary Russet’, ‘Ross Nonpareil’, ‘Rubinola’, ‘Santana’ (but is very susceptible to canker), ‘Stirling Castle’, ‘Suntan’, ‘Tom Putt’, ‘Topaz’, ‘Wagener’, ‘Wealthy’, ‘Wheeler’s Russet’, ‘Winston’, ‘Woolbrook Russet’.
Resistant pears include:
‘Beurre Hardy’, ‘Docteur Jules Guyot’, ‘Fondante d' Automne’, ‘Gorham’, ‘Hessle’, ‘Jargonelle’, ‘Josephine de Malines’, ‘Nouveau Poiteau’, ‘Catillac’, ‘Black Worcester’, ‘Souvenir du Congrès’.
No fungicides are currently being produced for use by home gardeners on trees from which the fruit will be consumed.
Fungicides labelled for use on ornamental plants to control other diseases can be used on ornamental Malus (crabapple) and Pyrus trees (provided the fruit are not intended for consumption) and may provide some incidental control. They are used at the owner’s risk (test-spray a small area first to ensure that plant damage does not occur), but are safe to the operator when used as directed.
For the most effective control, you need to cover the whole tree. Unfortunately, most gardeners will not have sprayers capable of treating large, old trees.