Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Apple Trees Are Dying, And Researchers Don't Know Why

An apple tree affected by Rapid Apple Decline.
Kari Peter
An apple tree affected by Rapid Apple Decline.

A Cornell study published this month found the causes to dying apple trees across the country are still unknown.

“It’s a lot more complicated than picking one pathogen or one climactic condition. I think it’s a multitude of factors," Penn State tree fruit pathologist Kari Peter said. "It’s very, very challenging.”

Peter has been searching for answers since she first noticed dying trees in her research plot in 2013. It’s called Rapid Apple Decline, or in more severe cases, Sudden Apple Decline.

She said some think it’s because of damage the trees experienced during the winter, but it could be a new virus, called apple luteovirus one.

“The leaves may even turn purple. In a very short period of time – it could be a matter of just a couple of weeks – the tree could be dead.”

Peter said she knows a grower who lost 20 acres of trees.

“This one particular grower spent over $200,000 removing and replacing affected trees," Peter said. "That’s just the trees themselves. That does not take into consideration the revenue he lost from that site.”

For now, Peter said the biggest challenge is securing grant funding to further study and eventually solve the problem.  

Related Content