Modern wind turbine rotor blades are usually made from fibre-reinforced composite subcomponents. In the final assembly stage, these subcomponents are bonded together by several adhesive joints. One important adhesive joint is situated at the trailing edge, which refers to the downstream edge where the air-flow rejoins and leaves the blade. Maintenance inspections of wind turbine rotor blades show that among other forms of damage, local debonding of the shells along the trailing edge is a frequent failure type. The cause of trailing edge failure in wind turbine blades is complex, and detailed information is scarce. This paper is concerned with the fracture analysis of adhesive joints in general, with a particular focus on trailing edges. For that, the energy release rates in prescribed cracks present in the bond line of a generic trailing edge joint are investigated. In connection with this examination, the paper elucidates the influence of geometrical non-linearity in form of local buckling on both the increase of the energy release rate and the change of mode mixity. First, experimental results on adhesively bonded small-scale subcomponents are presented. Thereafter, a practical approach is presented, which links the experimental results conducted on a small scale to the numerical failure prediction of large-scale models. The proposed method is based on the virtual crack closure technique and defines the mode mixity at bimaterial interfaces unambiguously. The method is consequently applied to a wind turbine blade submodel in order to predict crack growth in the trailing edge. Thereby, the influence of different crack lengths on crack initiation and propagation is considered. The paper concludes with general thoughts on adhesively bonded trailing edge joints regarding the prevention of local debonding. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.