Growers are still calling in about avocados with thinning canopies, fruit drop and sunburn and leaf death. Coastal avocados are always difficult to irrigate. Mild weather followed by dry windy conditions means growers have to scramble to get water on. If the trees are on some sort of calendar schedule, it usually means the trees get stressed. If trees are on a slope where pressure is not properly regulated, some of the trees are going to get stressed. If emitter clogging is not addressed, then more trees get stressed. And lack of rains to leach salts from the root zone, and more trees are stressed.
This stress sets up the trees for disease and a very common one in an avocado orchard that is filled with lots of leaves where decay fungi are working is stem and leaf blight. The disease causes defoliation and exposed fruit sun burn and drop. In an orchard, it's possible to see healthy trees and sick ones at the same time. This may be due to the differences in soil type from tree to tree or the fruit load on trees - more fruit, more stress. Looking out over the orchard there may be a polka dot of sick trees. And it might all happen at once in a week or gradually.
So, this is a problem that is out there, if the irrigation issue is corrected, the trees usually recover. It might require white washing and pruning out dead tissue. If it is a young tree under two years, it might actually kill the little tree, but the disease is not usually fatal, just loosing the fruit.
This is a disease that goes to many different tree species - redwoods, eucalyptus, pine, Brazilian pepper, CITRUS. The cause is the same, water or salinity stress. To read more about this disease, go to:
A common sight in an orchard with stem and leaf blight. Healthy tree in foreground and thinning canopy in back. Another photo showing the blighted stems on a canopy with surrounding healthier trees. The die back characteristic on the leaves and random dieback in the leaf.
A common sight in an orchard with stem and leaf blight. Healthy tree in foreground and thinning canopy in back. Another photo showing the blighted stems on a canopy with surrounding healthier trees. The die back characteristic on the leaves.
Citrus response to irrigation water deficits have demonstrated that sensitivity of yield to water stress is dependent on the phenological phase in which water stress was applied. Adequate water supply is of major importance during citrus flowering and fruit set. A second critical period coincides with the period when fruit growth is rapid (fruit set to harvest). Depending on the level of water stress developed, the abscission of flowers and young fruits will be affected in the first case, as will fruit size in the second case.
For navels and mandarins it is possible to identify these critical periods in the crop and possibly allow stress when the trees are not in those critical periods. Some varieties though are complicated by having overlap of critical periods when another crop is present at the same time. Valencias can have two crops on the tree at the same time in spring and into summer harvest and coastal lemons can have fruit in all stages from fruit set to mature fruit at all times of the year. In the case of navels, reductions of applied water by 25% or more have resulted in no fruit yield reductions, if those water reductions do not occur during critical periods (Goldhamer, 2006; Domingo, 1996; Hutton et al, 2007). Water reductions during the rapid expansion period can result in significant fruit size reduction, though, and this period should be avoided if fruit size is critical to marketing (Goldhamer, 2006; Hutton et al, 2007).
In the case of coastal lemons, the stress should be avoided when the period of the most profitable crop is in rapid expansion, this is normally the summer crop. Each grower would need to identify, when the most profitable fruit size is important. Growers in areas that have more summer heat than the coast might practice a ‘Verdelli' irrigation practice, where water is withheld for a period of time, in order to force flowering that can often result in more summer fruit being harvested the following year (Maranto and Hake, 1985).
Domingo, R., Ruiz-Sanchez, M.C., Sanchez-Blanco, M. J. and Torrecillas. A.1996. Water Relations, growth and yield of ‘Fino' lemon trees under regulated deficit irrigation. Irrig. Sci.16: 115-123 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02215619#page-1
Goldhamer, D. and N. O'Connell. 2006. Using Regulated Deficit Irrigation to Optimize Fruit Size in Late Harvest Navels. Citrus Research Board. http://citrusresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2006-GOLDHAMER1.pdf
Hutton RJ, Landsberg JJ, Sutton BG. 2007. Timing irrigation to suit citrus phenology: a means of reducing water use without compromising fruit yield and quality. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture (47): 71–80. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/EA05233
Maranto, J. and K. Hake. 1985. Verdelli summer lemons: a new option for California growers. California Agriculture 39(5): 4. https://ucanr.edu/repositoryfiles/ca3905p4-62870.pdf
Phenological stages of navel orange.
Recently I was asked why an irrigation schedule could be projected for almond and citrus in the Central Valley (Almonds:http://cekern.ucanr.edu/Irrigation_Management/Almond_Drip_-_Microsprinkler_-
_Flood_Weekly_ET/Citrus: http://cekern.ucanr.edu/Irrigation_Management/Citrus_ET_by_age/ ) and why the same couldn't be done for the main avocado growing areas. Here was my response:
Generating a generic irrigation schedule for avocados along the coast is very difficult and if done would be terribly misleading. Scheduling gets really hairy along the coast where avocados are grown. As you get further from the coast the water demand (ETo) increases in many months, typically increasing in the summer. This can be most pronounced in the late winter/spring when the fog along the coast really causes a contrast between coastal and inland conditions. May in Ventura, the sun comes out for about 2 hours and in Fillmore 20 miles inland it may be 90 F at 4 PM. The fog is a major determinant for irrigation demand and it varies daily, monthly and year to year from Monterey to San Diego. So fog can throw off an irrigation schedule.
The next variable to area-wide scheduling is the topography where avocados are grown, usually slopes to improve air and water drainage. Depending on the aspect and slope position, the ETo can vary tremendously depending on the sky conditions and what those conditions are depending on the time of day (such as foggy in the morning and clear in the afternoon). So west and south facing will always be higher than north and east. The top of the slope that intercepts more wind than the bottom and will have higher ETo than the bottom of the slope. And if the trees intercept more evaporative conditions midday when the sun comes out, it will be much higher than the east side in the morning when fog is dripping off the trees (zero evaporative demand). Then as you go south from Monterey to San Diego the ETo goes up, just because of latitude and sun interception. These conditions are very different from Fresno where ETo in July is 0.6 inches per day and is the same until Sept, the sky is clear most days and trees are grown on fairly flat ground.
Now throw in rainfall. Almonds are deciduous and only count on the value of rainfall as that which is stored in the rooting zone going into spring when leaves are come out. Avocados rely on winter rain for transpiration and salt leaching. In a good year a significant portion of the total yearly ETcrop can be subtracted from the irrigation demand. In a low/no rainfall year that all needs to be made up by supplemental irrigation.
An almond grower in the Valley might be able to go onto a calendar, set the clock if they have water on demand and walk away. That's never going to happen in a coastal avocado orchard. Depending on where the avocado is grown and the ETo at that site, applied water might vary from 1.5 ac-ft per acre to 3.5. This will depend on rainfall (when and how much), water quality (which determines leaching requirement) and the system delivery (system efficiency). This system issue can be further complicated by whether the delivery is on-demand or whether a certain amount will be delivered at a certain date for a certain length of time - 24 hours or 48. This makes it difficult for the grower to put on exactly what ETo and other issues the trees would demand. In this case, the delivery system determines the schedule.
So this is why there's no chart showing ET demand for coastal avocados where the bulk are grown in California.
A CIMIS (CA Irrigation Management Information System) DWR weather station for calculating crop water requirement.
There is some variability in citrus susceptibility to both the psyllid (Westbrook et al and Hall et al) and the bacterial infection (Shokrollah et al and Stover and Mc Collum). It is not fully clear at this point which of these species would be best to include in a breeding program, but both scions (http://www.concitver.com/3erEIIC2011/Viernes_23_sep/Ed_Stover/Ed_Stover.pdf) and rootstocks (http://www.flcitrusmutual.com/files/4cbb1e3c-1e1f-4b04-a.pdf) are being evaluated.
Some varieties like Australian Finger Lime (Microcitrus australasica) might show more resistance/tolerance to HLB than other species. At the UC Citrus Variety Collection website, it's possible to see the wide range of citrus species that are available for breeding and the commercial availability of those species. The collection is a view into the different materials that breeders can select from, in order to improve resistance to this citrus disease.
Citrus Variety Collection
Australian Finger Lime Collection and Availability
Susceptibility to Infestation by Asian Citrus Psyllid
Catherine J. Westbrook1, David G. Hall2, Ed Stover, and Yong Ping Duan
D. Hall, C. Westbrook, Y.-P. Duan, E. Stover, R. Lee and M. Richardson http://citrusagents.ifas.ufl.edu/events/fl_citrus2011/Hall%20ACP%20IR%20Citrus%20Expo%202011.pdf
Susceptibility to HLB
Hajivand Shokrollah, Thohirah Lee Abdullah, Kamaruzaman Sijam,Siti Nor Akmar Abdullah and
Nur Ashikin Psyquay Abdullah
Ed Stoverand Greg McCollum
Australian Finger Lime Fruit
Australian Finger Lime Tree
This is being posted again because there have been so many calls recently with the same problem - lack of good water management accentuated by lack of rain and salt damage.
When you see dieback in an avocado it could be due to several reasons, and here are three very common causes of dieback, one of which has been especially common when there is little rain. The first major cause of dieback is an overgrown tree where there is no light that penetrates into the canopy. Branches with leaves in a darkened interior will naturally shut down and dieback, leaving these twiggy dried out branches. This is a natural process whereby the tree just gets rid of leaves that are not performing.
Another cause of dieback is our old friend Avocado Root Rot, Phytophthora cinnamomi. This causes dieback, also called “stag horning” because of the dead branches standing out from the surrounding canopy. This is normally accompanied by a thinning canopy with smaller, yellow leaves and a lack of leaf litter because of lack of energy. It's also hard to find roots and if they are found, they are black at the tips and brittle.
The third major cause of dieback is a result of water stress. This shows up with low water pressure, at the top of the hill where the most wind occurs, where a sprinkler gets clogged, when the irrigation schedule is not meeting tree's needs or when there is not adequate rainfall to get sufficient leaching. And after four years of drought, this is very common. This appears as dead spots in the canopy, a branch here and there where the leaves have died and are still hanging. It's been called “salt and pepper” syndrome, because it can have a few branches here and there that have died back while the rest of the canopy is normal, the leaves are normally sized and green. In young trees, in severe cases, the fungus that causes this blight can work its way down to the graft union and kill the tree. In mature trees, it just causes an unthrifty look to the tree. Although we have always seen this problem in avocado orchards, this has become a very common affliction in orchards these last few years
1) Lack of light dieback
2) Phytophthora cinnamomi dieback
3) Stem and Leaf Blight