This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
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Mr. Thomas Meehan, editor of the Gar-dener's Monthly, Philadelphia, read a very able paper on diseases of the pear, which was followed by discussions of the subject. Mr. Meehan classes what is generally termed fire Might under two divisions - one as insect Might caused by the Scolytus Pyri, the other as frozen sap Might, both of which he regards as confined to comparatively young branches. He regards the destruction of the pear by Might, as generally found, to come from parasitic fungus, and advises the old course of cutting away and burning the diseased branch as the best remedy. Canker, leaf blight, cracking, knotting, and hardening of the fruit, severally receive a few words; while he places considerable stress on a disease under the name of Debility, which, he says, "is in most cases the result of cultivation, and by cultivation I mean any method of treating a plant which it would not get in a state of nature. Sometimes we intentionally debilitate a pear tree. We work on the quince stock, we summer prune, and we root prune so to debilitate the wood-producing principle as to induce inflorescence, on the well-known principle that nature always makes an effort to reproduce the plant in proportion to the danger of death, We know we do not get so many fruit as we should in the long run by allowing vigorous nature to take its course, but we sacrifice abundance to gain a little in time.
But in our efforts to debilitate just enough to accomplish our aim, we often do too much, until debility becomes, for our purposes, a disease."
Mr. Meehan reiterates the recommendation he has published in his journal to grow pears in grass, and to avoid any mutilation of the roots - advice which conflicts with that of many very successful pear-growers. Some discussion ensued upon this subject, resulting, however, in no settled opinion.
Mr. Husman, of Hermann, Mo., had found that high cultivation, when followed by late and wet falls or a sudden frost, induced pear blight, and that by a lower cultivation the wood ripened earlier, the tree was hardier, and the disease was averted. His neighbors, who applied a richer culture than he, were still afflicted with pear blight, while he was exempt.
Dr. Hull, of Alton, had concluded that to arrest the growth at a certain period would prevent the blight, and this plan he had tried with success. He pruned the roots about the 1st of March, cutting them off to the depth of two feet, and in two years after repeated the pruning, but in a wider circle. He pruned when the tree became of bearing size, and in the case of both pear and quince roots. Overcropping, however, had so much increased the productiveness, that fatal exhaustion sometimes followed.