Quebec orchards worry 'very contagious' blight could spell bad apple season

Orchards across Quebec are worried a fire blight epidemic that could spell the beginning of a bad apple season.

Quebec environment ministry warning of disease outbreak that can result in loss of apple trees

Though the fire blight epidemic has mostly hit orchards north of Montreal, Mélanie Charbonneau and other Quebec farmers are watching their apple trees very closely. (CBC)

For apple farmer Mélanie Charbonneau, it's a worrying year for her Mont-Saint-Grégoire orchard.

"The apple is the most important production that we have here," she said, adding that her orchard welcomes up to 10,000 apple pickers in the fall.

But now, Quebec's ministry of environment is urging producers to be vigilant of a fire blight epidemic that's hitting some of the province's orchards.

Though the outbreak has mostly affected orchards north of Montreal, farmers across Quebec are watching their trees closely and using preventative treatments to stop the blight from latching onto them.

"It's very, very, very contagious. And even the insect can just contaminate a tree. And it's very bad when it happens," she said.
Fire blight can result in clumps of brown leaves on apple trees. (CBC)

The disease can also result in the loss of branches and tree structure.

"Sometimes some orchards have to cut all their trees because when it propagates from one tree to another tree, it's very contagious and you have to cut the tree," Charbonneau said.

On top of it all, farmers across the province have to contend with dryer than usual conditions.

"It's a dry year, but it's not catastrophic because we have some weeks that we don't have rain and another week where we have a little bit of rain," Charbonneau said, "and we have an irrigation system that is good for us."

Despite it all, farmers like Charbonneau are hoping for fruitful autumn.

With files from Kate McKenna