EAST TEXAS - Are we beginning to dry out? Has the climate of rain, rain and more rain ended and rainfall become more normal?
It seems that most of us are at least a little excited to have drier weather these days. It’s true. We’ll fuss again when dry weather hits us in the summer but at least for a short time we may be more like Goldilocks and say that the rainfall is “just right”.
The recent wet weather and our typical humidity may have increased the amount of fungal problems on fruit trees. Just like in your home, molds and fungus grow when there is an abundance of moisture.
In truth, there are three types of diseases on plants: viral, bacterial and fungal. We can’t do much for viral and bacterial. You can’t get a steroid shot or find a prescription for a “Z-pack” or any other antibiotics for a fruit tree! Often for bacteria and virus control we turn to controlling insects that spread the disease and then pamper the tree with proper soil moisture and adequate nutrition to aid it in recovery.
However, with fungal issues on plants, we do have some remedies. There are a number of good fungicidal products out there that will, indeed, work.
But to be really good at fungal control in the landscape or orchard, we have to get ahead of the problem and prevent it from occurring.
Let it be said first that healthy plants can survive disease attacks (and insects, too) better than plants that are stressed. We must plant the fruit varieties that are adapted to our region and, if available, those that have resistance to diseases. Feel free to experiment with a variety that your cousin grows in another part of the country, but keep in mind we have an adapted list for good reason.
Next, plant them in a suitable site. What is suitable? Lots of sunlight. Most plant diseases require that the leaf, fruit, or bark remain wet for a certain period before infection can occur. As we well know how much rainfall, humidity and the dew that stays until mid-morning, we cannot ignore the importance of full sun.
The following precautions reduce the length of time that the trees are wet after dew or rainfall and, therefore, suppress disease development. First, when planting, space the trees to allow air to circulate among them. Crowding trees limits air circulation. Plant them far enough apart to when your fruit trees are full grown, you are able to use a riding mower between them without getting knocked off by the branches!
A good site also requires an area that receives early morning sun and is away from buildings or other plants that would block air circulation.
Let’s not add to any moisture problem by planting them where they can be wet from irrigation. Your irrigation of fruit trees needs to be targeting the roots, not getting the leaves wet.
A good site means good soil. I realize that many places in the county are just not blessed with good soil. Mine is marginal at best for trees that need excellent soil drainage. In addition, good soil will help you follow a well-balanced fertility program.
Lastly, prune as needed. We don’t prune to satisfy some bonsai tree fetish, but to improve its health and productivity. A properly pruned tree opens the canopy and promotes rapid drying of fruit, leaves, and limbs.
Furthermore, you can reduce pest problems by removing diseased and infested fruit as well as removing diseased limbs and canes. Many pests can remain on infested plant parts from one growing season to the next. To remove these sources of disease, collect and destroy the infested fruit from last year’s remnants and as they appear during the growing season.
Finally, we do have an array of fungicides to protect plants from fungus. Remember that we use fungicides as a protective measure. A fungicide will not “restore” the diseased fruit once a disease has taken hold. Unlike synthetic and organic insecticides where we shoot-to-kill once we see the offending bug, we must utilize fungicides ahead of the issue to protect from fungal spores.
As always, read and follow the label. Multiple sprays will likely be needed per label directions.