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.
Under the above caption I detailed in your eleventh volume, Mr. Editor, my experience with, and views upon, the disease which attacks this variety, upon which you briefly commented, and suggested that experiments be tried with salt, caustic, soda, etc., as preventives.
Not remembering to have seen any notice of such experiments, I wish to inquire whether any have been made, and with what result!
The disease has with us become so prevalent, that the Doyenne is no longer considered worth planting by those who have grown it.
With the experience of two more years, I cannot say that I have learned anything new regarding the disease. Last year it destroyed nearly the whole of my crop, which was not large. This season it was a subject of remark that the Doyenne was unusually free from spots, and I congratulated myself upon the prospect of a respectable proportion of fair fruit, but a quantity being blown from the trees by the gales of September, were placed in a box to ripen, and came out in the usual manner, nearly every specimen more or less affected, and a large proportion a mass of bitter rot, very few being fit for use. Quite discouraged, I prohibited the remainder of the crop being brought into the fruit-room, but selected from the heap perhaps a peck of the fairest, and caused the rest to be disposed of in an unripe state for cooking purposes. The few selected specimens ripened without showing much indication of disease, but many of them were wanting in the pristine excellence of the variety in point of flavor.
I nave been quite startled to detect symptoms of the same or a similar malady, upon the Seckel and Beurre Diel. It was confined to a few specimens of each, and did not exhibit the virulence or the contagious property so strongly marked in the Doyenne.
Has any one else observed other sorts than the latter, affected in this manner? I trust that this evil, already so serious, will not become more so by extending to other varieties, for pears will assuredly not be "profitable for market," if it should be generally prevalent. Jno. B. Eaton.
It has been the custom with us, in Western New York, as far back as my recollection extends, to compare alt other pears with the White Doyennr It has been, by common consent, considered the standard of excellence, and, until very recently, it was by most persons considered as having no equal. Even now, it is with difficulty that any pear is conceded to. be its superior. ' '
Such being its reputation here, and it being well known that, while Eastern pomologists found great difficulty in growing it in perfection, they still retained vivid recollections of its many excellences, numberless cultivators planted trees to a greater or less extent, feeling certain that, if .the, demand at home should not keep pace with the supply, there was always a good price and a ready sale awaiting them in New York.
It being the favorite theory with many-cultivators, that the cracking of the fruit was owing to a want of some constituent in the soil, which had been abstracted by long cultivation, it was supposed by many, and asserted by some, that in the deep and fertile soils of the West, it would be many years before the enemy, which had almost driven it from the Eastern orchards, would follow it to the banks of the Genesee and the Niagara. The fact that, in some cases, fair fruif had been produced on trees which had formerly borne only diseased specimens, and which had been subjected to a severe process of pruning, both root and top, and " reno-vation" of the Boil, naturally strengthened this supposition, and many pear orchards have been planted within a few years, some with the White Doyenne alone, and some with a large proportion of this variety.
It is a number of years since the fruit in this vicinity, began to give indications of the presence of the disease which had proved so disastrous elsewhere. For some time, it was chiefly confined to individual trees, generally under poor .cultivation; or quite neglected. In some cases, the "renovating" system was tried on such specimens, with different degrees of success, and I have known a few trees which were for some years quite free from the pest, after having been well pruned and cultivated.
The disease has been, however, continually increasing. It has been for some years a matter of custom with cultivators who possessed many trees to select from their annual crop a large proportion of cracked and spotted fruit, since it was found that, if all were allowed to ripen together, much fruit, which was stored in an apparently perfect state, was sure to become affected from the contact of that which was unsound.
For two or three years past, I have closely observed the various phases which this malady has assumed, and have made some experiments with trees which were affected, in order to prevent, if possible, the destruction of the prop, but never with entire success. I tried the "renovation" system, to a greater or less extent, on- a number of trees. In one case, I effected some improvement in the fruit, but, usually, the application of the various ingredients which were recommended was of no use. During the last season, I examined nearly every fruiting tree that came under my notice, and I cannot bow call to mind more than two or three which bore uniformly perfect specimens. Many .cultivators with whom I conversed stated that their fruit was nearly all affected, and rarely one claimed to be even measurably exempt. .
The conclusion to which I was forced to arrive was, that the "exhaustion" theory is incorrect, for I have seen many trees, fruiting for the first time, and on land which never grew a pear-tree before, bearing cracked fruit under as good cultivation as pear-trees ordinarily require, and far better than they frequently receive. The "running out" theory I have always considered as being more ingenious than plausible, and not sustained by the facts.
The fungus which occasions the disease I conceive to be somewhat similar to that which causes the mildew in grapes, and the minute particles by which it is disseminated being carried by currents of air in contact with the fruit, will account for its rapid increase. ' The fruit borne by aged or diseased trees naturally affords a more suitable situation for the growth of the fungus than the vigorous and rapidly swelling specimens produced by young, healthy, and highly cultivated trees; and while the former falls an easy prey to its ravages, and becomes so entirely covered with it as to crack in all directions, the latter exhibits but a few spots of mildew upon the surface. It frequently happens, however, that these fruits, which appear but slightly affected when gathered, will be found, when ripe, to have gained a large accession of mildew, and to be utterly uneatable, in consequence of the intense and sickening bitterness with which they are impregnated.
I have found no difference in the liability of dwarf and standard trees to become attacked, although Mr. Hovey, in a late number of the Fruits of America, gives it as the result of his experience that the fruit on dwarf-trees remains unhurt, while that on standards, in the immediate vicinity, is destroyed.
This is already a serious matter, involving the loss of large sums to those who have planted largely of the White Doyenne, and a remedy is of great importance. Who can discover one? It is an established fact, that the fumes of sulphur are of great benefit in preventing the ravages of the mildew in graperies, but it would be no easy matter to fumigate an orchard, or even a single large tree, effectually.
Shall we have a remedy? or must we abandon the White Doyenne? I confess to a desire to see this subject discussed by more experienced pear-growers, and to know the results of their experiments.