Sanitation is an important and often overlooked practice to control diseases in the home orchard. Many fruits can be grown more successfully and with less dependence on chemicals by using good sanitation.
Why is sanitation so important?
Proper sanitation will eliminate or reduce the amount of disease causing spores and bacteria present in an area.
Removing and disposing of infected leaves, pruning and removing infected or dead branches, and removing or destroying other plant debris (mummified fruit, etc.) will reduce the amount of potential disease next year. This will increase the effectiveness of any fungicide spray program.
Many diseases affect the foliage, fruit and stems of fruit trees. Black rot is a major disease of apples and pears in the southeast. It affects both the fruit and leaves. Leaf symptoms are known as ‘frog-eye’ leaf spot.
This fungus overwinters on the bark of dead wood in the trees and on the ground. Dead wood should be pruned out of trees and removed from the orchard.
Apple scab is a common apple disease. This disease is not a consistent problem in southeastern orchards because cool, wet weather is required for infection. It affects the leaves causing olive green lesions and can cause developing fruit to crack. The fungus overwinters in fallen leaves. Leaves should be raked and removed to eliminate this overwintering site.
Fireblight is a bacterial disease that varies in severity from year to year. It can occur on both apples and pears. The disease spread can be reduced by prompt pruning to remove blighted tissue.
Failure to remove blighted twigs can increase incidence of white rot, bitter rot and black rot as both of these fungi colonize dead wood during the growing season. All fireblight infected tissues, including cankers, need to be cut out and removed from the orchard as soon as possible.
All cuts should be made 8-12 inches below the diseased tissue. Pruning tools should be dipped in rubbing alcohol or 10 percent bleach between cuts to prevent spreading the bacterium.
Brown rot is the major disease of fruits in Georgia. The disease infects the blooms, stems and fruit. The fungus overwinters in stem cankers, dried, mummified fruit and fruit peduncles (where infected fruit had been attached). Control of brown rot begins with sanitation. All twigs with brown rot cankers need to be pruned and removed from the area or destroyed. Mummies (infected, hardened fruit) in the tree and on the ground should also be collected, removed and/or destroyed. These practices will make fungicide sprays more effective.
So take some time to clean up around the home orchard and enjoy the fruits of your labor this summer.
Note: Remember the Produce Market is still open each Wednesday and Saturday from 7:30-10 a.m. in front of the Dawson County Agricultural Center.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.