Peach Leaf Curl

Lately, I have had quite a few community members come into the office with a problem on their peach tree. The leaves look funny and have a pinkish color to them. The same problem is being seen throughout the area and unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about it, at least not for this year. The problem many people are dealing with is Peach Leaf Curl.

Peach leaf curl is caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans. This fungal disease is one of the most common diseases in the home orchard and can affect the blossoms, fruit, leaves, and shoots of peaches and nectarines. (Cherries have a similar leaf curl diseases caused by T. cerasi.) Peach leaf curl is more severe following cool, wet springs; temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees F are ideal for infection, which is why we are seeing it so often this year.

Peach Leaf Curl, Paul Bachi, Univ of Kentucky R and E Center, Bugwood

Photo of Peach Leaf Curl is from Paul Bachi, University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Bugwood.org

The primary symptom is a thickened, puckered area on leaves which will turn yellow to red or purple with the loss of chlorophyll. These leaves may prematurely drop, weakening the tree and making it more susceptible to other diseases, pests, and cold injury. The disease can also result in reduced fruit set, size, and quality.

A single fungicide spray applied while trees are still dormant (just prior to bud swell), thoroughly covering all branches, shoots, and buds will control peach leaf curl. Effective controls include Bravo, Ziram, and copper compounds.

At this time of year, most infection has already occurred, and fungicide sprays are relatively ineffective. Fruit on defoliated trees should be thinned to reduce stress and improve tree survival.

This information on Peach Leaf Curl came from Connie Fisk, a fruit tree expert for Nebraska Extension located in Cass County. Read more from Connie on her blog, Food Adventures with Connie

Another thing to think about this time of year, is what type of fruit tree to plant if you are thinking about planting new trees. You need to decide what type of fruit you prefer to grow, what you will be using your fruit for, and if the tree is self-fruitful or if you need to plant a pollinator tree nearby. It is also best to plant fruit trees that are resistant to the common diseases found in our fruit trees. For apple trees, select a tree that is resistant to cedar-apple rust and apple scab. For peach trees, choose a tree that is resistant to bacterial spot. For pear trees, choose one that is resistant to Fire Blight.

apples-A. Henneman flickr

Flickr image courtesy of Alice Henneman per CC license

For Apple trees, some good choices include Redfree, Johnafree, or Liberty. For Pear varieties, look at Moonglow, Luscious, Lincoln, Magness, or Seckel. For Peaches, choose Reliance, Red Haven, Contender, or Madison.

There are many other great choices for fruit tree varieties to use. Nebraska Extension released a NebGuide in July of 2016 called ‘Fruit Tree Cultivars for Nebraska’. It is a good guide that helps you to find the fruit tree variety or varieties you need for your fruiting wishes.

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