Cedar Apple Rust
Symptoms: Cedar apple rust is a fungal disease that requires juniper plants to complete its complicated two year life-cycle. Spores overwinter as a reddish-brown gall on young twigs of various juniper species. In early spring, during wet weather, these galls swell and bright orange masses of spores are blown by the wind where they infect susceptible apple and crabapple trees. The spores that develop on these trees will only infect junipers the following year. From year to year, the disease must pass from junipers to apples to junipers again; it cannot spread between apple trees.
On apple and crabapple, look for pale yellow pinhead sized spots on the upper surface of the leaves shortly after bloom. These gradually enlarge to bright orange-yellow spots, which make the disease easy to identify. Orange spots may develop on the fruit as well. Heavily infected leaves may drop prematurely.
Control: Choose resistant cultivars when available. If cedar apple rust is a continuing problem, organic fungicides can be applied weekly starting with bud break on apples and crabapples. Fungicide applications are used to protect the tree from spores being released by the juniper host in mid-spring. This occurs only once a year, so additional applications after this springtime spread are not necessary. Rake up and dispose of fallen leaves and other debris from under apple trees. Remove galls from infected junipers. In some cases, juniper plants should be removed entirely. Contact your local Agricultural Extension office for other possible solutions in your area.
Photo Credit: Ohio State University Department of Horticulture and Crop Sciences