This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
An Elyria, (Ohio) correspondent says that the fire blight has been so destructive there that pear growers are much discouraged.
Since it has been demonstrated that this disease is the work of a fungus operating from the outside, washes in early spring ought to be an "infallible cure." Indeed, Mr. Saunders, of the Agricultural Department at Washington, made this fact tolerably clear long ago, and before Dr. Hunt explained so lucidly how the fire blight fungus operated.
J. McP., writes: "I have had quite a good deal to do with the fire blight on the pear this year, and I have to say that Mr. Meehan's friend would require a very powerful instrument to detect fungi on the affected branches. Quite a number of people believe that the trees are struck by lightning; and certainly the so-called blight of this year became evident almost immediately after one of those peculiar storms of thunder, lightning and rain, during which the whole atmosphere seemed charged with electricity. Now, the fungus may require that condition of the atmosphere to galvanize it into growth - who can tell? But if the the ' blight' is the effect of the lightning alone, then I would certainly suggest to some scientific amateur the use of cheap bar iron lightning rods, set well in the ground and rising above the trees. This idea was patented in England some years ago as a preventive of mildew in French vineyards, and it would, if applied here, very likely clear up a fallacy."
[We believe microscopists generally have powerful instruments. Certainly electricity may have something to do with the disease, and so may lots of other things. When we come to what may be causes, one man's guess is quite as good as another's. The lightning rod suggestion does not amount to much, as every branch of a tree is already a rod, and each leaf as good as a platina point. Already houses and barns with rods are often destroyed by lightning, - some say just as often as those without rods. This being the case with buildings, what would the rod prove in the tree? Dr. Hunt is too good a microscopist to be deceived in his observations that fungi caused the fire blight; still it is proper to add that Prof. Farlow, who has been studying fire blight this season, does not find any fungus, but cannot imagine any adequate cause for the appearances. On the other hand it may be noted that the Editor of this magazine stood alone once in showing from analogy that the plum knot could not be the work of an insect.
It has now been demonstrated by Prof. Farlow to be a fungus, as we showed it must be, and we know of no intelligent fruit-grower who thinks otherwise.
In like manner we are prepared to say from similar analogies with all we know practically of vegetable life, that the fire blight can only be by fungoid agency; unless there is some entirely new agency at work in the world of which no one has yet had a suspicion. But this new agent is not necessary, because fungoid growths are quite equal to the emergency, and do similar things in hosts of instances. - Ed. G. M.]