Fungal Disease in the Orchard

Photo courtesy of everystockphoto, by iLoveButter

This afternoon I received another question about orchard health that I wanted to share in case someone else is looking for similar help:

Hi Erin,

We are adding trees to our home orchard and are seeking some guidance regarding growing peach trees.

I purchased a Contender which I’ve had for a year but now it has Cytospora canker.

We have nearby wild cherries that are infected with black knot and I am in the process of destroying a wild cherry tree with Cytospora. Knowing this disease exists in the wild nearby should I even consider trying to grow a peach tree?

Thanks for your help.

~Christine

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi Christine!
Cytospora is a fungal disease. I can only tell you from experience of some natural methods you can try. You can google for fungal sprays if you are looking for more of a chemical control, but since I don’t use inorganic methods I can’t suggest any.

First, you want to keep good sanitation, removing any gummy residue from the tree and applying anti-fungal agents to any open wounds on the tree. Burn any branches, leaves, etc. that fall or are removed from the tree. I would suggest painting any wounds on the tree (where the gummy residue is leaking out, any pruned branches, and so on) with teatree oil, oregano oil, or olive oil infused with a lot of garlic. In addition, spray a solution of water mixed with the Bach flower remedy “crab apple” and also Bach’s “Rescue Remedy” in it over the tree.  I recommend spraying the entire tree regularly (as often as possible, even daily or several times a week) throughout this year’s growing season with the “crab apple/rescue remedy” water solution. You’ll simply have to monitor it next year to see whether it needs sprays or not.

The crab-apple will help the tree to throw off the fungal infection, and the Rescue Remedy can help it to overcome any adverse effects from the infection that have weakened it — but it may take quite some time for it to take noticeable effect. This should help the tree to naturally become stronger against the infection. In fact, you may wish to treat the wild cherry trees as well. Cytospora is actually carried by coniferous trees, though, and your other trees may be harboring cytospora as well.  A backpack sprayer is great for this kind of spray application. You will only need about ten drops of crab apple and ten drops of Rescue Remedy in a couple of gallons of water. Any anti-fungal agent (the teatree oil, oregano oil, or olive oil with garlic infused in it) you will want to paint directly onto any wounds undiluted. The anti-fungal oil only needs to be applied for a short time — one or two applications.

It’s important to understand that a healthy tree will not be very susceptible to disease and can withstand something like cytospora in spite of its presence in the area. This is why preparing a great, healthy soil before planting is so beneficial when possible. You may wish to google “cytospora resistant peach tree varieties” and see if you can find any that do well in your zone 4 climate when you plant your new trees. But most importantly, a very healthy soil will help your tree (and any new trees you plant) to be strong and healthy enough to withstand disease. You can have your soil tested to see what amendments you need to add to the soil around the dripline and under the tree. Using a good liquid organic fertilizer (such as manure tea, kelp, etc.) as often as recommended on the label to increase the nutrients available to your tree is a good place to start.

I have had excellent success interplanting garlic around my fruit trees, and among my fruits and tomatoes to ward off fungal, bacterial, and viral diseases, and find that my berries in particular do poorly when there is not garlic planted among them. The soil here is not good soil and there is a viral disease present from the wild berries that grow here. But the garlic helps them keep healthy. I also have had very nice success rescuing diseased or dying plants with the crab apple/rescue remedy combination as well.

You can actually also make a spray of “garlic tea” (a couple gallons of water with lots of chopped garlic steeped in it, then, strained) and use this as a topical spray to ward off fungal diseases. I would personally use several of the approaches I’ve mentioned in combination to try to save the tree, and prevent infection in the new trees that will be planted. It is becoming much more widespread among professional organic tree-fruit growers to use garlic sprays against fungus (scab, etc.), and they are sprayed immediately following each rain, and/or every couple weeks throughout the growing season. They will, of course, wash off in the rain, which is why they must be reapplied.

While you can certainly choose which approach sounds the best to you, if I found myself in your situation, I would definitely use the crab apple/rescue remedy spray, clean up the tree(s) and paint the wounds with garlic oil, plant garlic around the tree, improve the soil health, and also spray with a garlic water. A lot of concerted effort, certainly, but not terribly expensive. Just time consuming.

When you plant your new trees, if possible, you may want to plant them well away from the infected trees. This may not be possible, of course.

Here are some links to the crab apple and the rescue remedy, which also goes by the name “Feel5ive”:

I hope this helps. I’m afraid I don’t know much about conventional chemical sprays and medications for trees if that is what you were looking for, but I find the organic treatments mentioned above adequate in my own experience, and perhaps they can help you as well.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes! Great question – I will probably post both your question and the answer on my blog so that anyone else with the same problem can find some ideas as well.

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