This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
From the outline given in my previous paper on Bacteria it will not be necessary to recapitulate, beyond reminding your readers that it is a well-established fact that Bacteria pervades the universe; and the term Bacteria, be it also remembered, covers organisms of very diverse kinds, and being imperceptible to the eye, except by microscopical aid, we are too apt to doubt their existence or give credence to their destructive contamination to the vegetable and animal creation. In the direction of proof of the activity of Bacterial life and its apparently unlimited range and prevalence, Professor Tyndall has been one of the most energetic, painstaking and successful in his searching investigations, and reaching from Kew Gardens to the Alps 7000 feet above the sea's level, and in hundreds of other locations, under all conditions and circumstances, and finding Bacterial germs everywhere from minimum to maximum. More recently the reports of Professor Freudenreich of Berne, and Dr. Miguel, chief of the Montsouris Observatory, give some facts also worthy of mention in this particular, to the effect that Bacteria are always present in mountain air as well as upon the earth's surface.
These investigators tell us that the air upon a Swiss lake contains Bacteria in proportion of .85 to 500 cubic meters, while the land near the lake contains three times this estimated number. The air of Montsouris, near Paris, is said to contain 330 times more. Some of these investigations reached from the surface of the lake to 4000 meters above the level of the sea.
Professor Tyndall's experiments lay more particularly in infusions of hay, melon, cucumber, turnip, beet and other vegetables; also in fish, flesh and fowl, in the endeavor to hermetically seal them to the exclusion of the particles upon which the germs float in the air. These infusions amounted in two years to 10,000 and were all previously sterilized by various degrees of low and excessive heat by boiling them for longer or shorter periods; but he could at will influence these infusions by simply waving a wisp of hay in their vicinity and exposing them for a short time to the floating hay dust. Bacterial life always followed this practical test. Hay has long been known as a prolific source of Bacterial germs.
Pasteur, the great French chemist, also mentions the fact that the grape is sealed by its own skin against contamination from without, and at the time of the vintage microscopical particles are observed to adhere to the surface of this important fruit and also to the twigs that support it, and these particles being brushed into the pure inert juice of the grape, in 48 hours our familiar Torula is found budding and sprouting. The ferment of the grape clings like a parasite to the surface of the grape and undoubtedly this may be extended to the cherry, plum, peach and other fruits, and the remedy under this theory, is apparent. But, to come more particularly to the point we have in view, we ask, what can be done to ward off this ever-present germinal influence and to intercept the development of the mature Bacteria, so that our pear and peach trees may not meet with premature death on their account? Is there any remedy or the prospect of a forthcoming one that will meet the case? Sir John Lubbock, before the British Asso-ciation (Science) Jubilee at York in 1881, in review of the Bacterian question, assures us that carbolic acid is the remedy, but mentioned no special form- ula or special proportions of acid and water.
Dr. Newman, however, states that a solution of one per cent is sufficient to destroy Bacteria and that a solution of one to five hundred destroys vegetable mould, a weak solution being also destructive to ascarides, earthworms, caterpillars, moths, ants and other insects. Here then seems to be our "clew." Shall we apply a weak spray direct to the tree or can we so permeate the air with the odor of carbolic acid and thus sterilize the activity of our foes? Let experimenters try their hand at the query. What does Professor Lister do when he has a compound fracture on hand to baffle the germs of Bacteria and save his patient from possible death? He first sallies forth a weak spray of carbolic acid solution direct upon the fracture. Next follows a four per cent solution intermixed with heated raw linseed oil and this is followed by antiseptic bandages, and we are assured that 99 cases out of 100 become convalescent. The success in this treatment lays in excluding the germs from the fracture by this antiseptic treatment.
I have also the authority of the naturalist Cohn and others that all Bactericidal media are antiseptic and disinfecting.
Now we reach the raw linseed oil treatment and will call it the hermetically sealing preventive by protecting the bark against the depredations of Bacteria. In a communication of mine to the Fruit Recorder of November, 1877, I queried the benefit that could be gained by the application of the aforesaid oil as a cure while the tree was smitten with disease, but added that it would undoubtedly form a film wherever applied and perhaps be the means of protection against fungi. Now in the light of the Bacterian theory it would appear more than probable that it is this very film if formed upon the tree while in health that will remedy the evil. Most assuredly such trees that I have applied this oil to while in vigorous health are still to all appearances looking healthy, bright and encouraging. This oil naturally suggests the application of other oils and I am now trying and testing slushing oil with apparently good results. This is a dark colored heavy petroleum production and quite impervious to the penetration of air and is of a less drying nature than raw linseed oil.
Vaseline, another petroleum product, seems to be of a similar nature but I fear too expensive.
With respect to peach yellows the case is somewhat different to pear blight. In this case I would suggest the syringing of a weak spray of carbolic acid solution upon the trees, or so place the carbolic acid in the proximity of the trees that the atmosphere may be impregnated with its disinfecting quality. This should be done early enough to forestall the dreaded Bacteria and continued at intervals until the temperature ceases to have generative influence. 90° and 950 of heat are said to be the most favorable to their multiplicity. Not one tree need be sacrificed in testing the remedies proposed, if the text of this paper is properly realized by the experimenter. In the application of oil or other substance to the pear tree the proper time would naturally be on some fair day in spring previous to the swelling of the buds. I may finally offer a few suggestions concerning insect life as partially touching the points now under consideration.
59 Gregory St., Rochester, N. Y.