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
From Peru This Week, Hillary Ojeda:
Unfavorable climate conditions around the world have increased demand from Peru.
In February, the Ministry of Irrigation and Agriculture confirmed that Peru is the second largest exporter of avocados. This will prove crucial in the coming months, as production around the world is at a shortage.
“Prior to the season a higher production was expected in Peru for 2015 compared to 2014, but now it turns out that the total Peruvian harvest is a bit lower,” Ine Potting (Mission Produce) told Fresh Plaza.
The produce news portal reports that the avocado market is currently experiencing a shortage due to primary exporters struggling to produce up to expectations.
“Due to hail in Mexico, which affected a lot of the Flor Loca harvest blossom, and the drought in California, the harvests there will also be less than satisfactory. This means that there will be more demand from the United States for avocados from Peru,” says Ine.
Considering these circumstances, the price is increasing (of green varieties as well in addition to Hass avocados) and less shipments will make it Europe this season.
Peru's avocado industry made US$ 308 million in 2014 and exported a record amount of 177,800 tons of the and creamy Hass avocado variety. These results secured its place as second largest exporter of the large berry, after Mexico.
From The Packer:
South Florida university researchers are using dogs and drones to sniff out a disease that's killing the region's avocado trees.
The Florida International University researchers are sending dutch sheppards and belgian malinois into avocado groves to locate trees infected by the lethal laurel wilt disease, which is spread by the redbay ambrosia beetle.
Detection is a major problem and trees can start to wilt within two weeks.
By the time infected trees are detected, the fungus has likely spread to nearby trees via root grafting, said DeEtta Mills, a biological sciences professor.
She and Kenneth Furton, a university provost and forensic chemist, are leading research that trains and deploys five dogs into Miami-area groves.
Drones flying above the groves can detect symptomatic trees, which signal researchers to direct the dogs to infected areas.
The dogs run through the groves and with their powerful noses, have been 90% accurate in locating infected trees, Mills said.
Because of permitting paperwork delays by the Federal Aviation Administration, the researchers haven't been able to use the drones.
The researchers hope to receive approval for drones by August and are relying on growers to point them to infected trees.
The drones provide higher accuracy and can better cover larger areas because running the dogs too long can overheat them and wear them out, Mills said.
Their heavy panting can dull their sniffing senses so after about 20 minutes, the researchers return them to kennels in air conditioned vans, Mills said.
The dogs are trained with diseased wood and infected tree samples detected by the dogs are sent to researchers who examine DNA to verify contamination, she said.
“These dogs, they love to do this and it's amazing to watch them,” Mills said. “These ‘girls' come out of the kennels of the van and ask us where we would like to send them and what we would like them to do. They're extremely highly-driven dogs. If we can get permission to use the drones, it will help us identify areas we need to go in with the dogs and help us verify infection much faster so the dogs won't have to cover as much ground.”
Canine detection is another way of helping save the state's multi-million dollar avocado industry and ultimately, the North American industry.
Florida growers have lost about 4,000 of nearly 800,000 trees and the disease has spread throughout the Mid-Atlantic and into Mississippi.
If it travels farther west, the dogs and drones detection system could also help growers in California and Mexico protect their much larger production, she said.
The Miami university is also working with University of Florida researchers and growers.
N.B. These techniques could also be used to trace Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer infested trees, as well.
Polyphagous Shothole Borer which is an ambrosia beetle that normally feeds on dead trees is going after live trees - over 100 species including sycamore, alder and coast live oak. It also goes after avocado. The California Avocado Commission has sponsored the placement of traps that have lures for PSHB. The traps are near avocado orchards but also likely spots where they might show up, such as campsite where people would bring firewood that might be infested with the beetle. The map here shows where the traps are located and where PSHB have been trapped. There are also traps in Santa Barbara County which are not yet shown on this map.
Some call it tip burn which is often what you see on an avocado as it goes into flowering. The areas where avocado are grown typically have a lot of salts in the water, but also specific salts like sodium and chloride. Over the irrigation season (which is all year long there is little or no rain), the salts in the water/soil are taken up by the tree. In adequate rainfall years, there is enough water to leach those accumulated salts from the root system. When we go for several years with low rainfall and we keep irrigating with the poor quality irrigation water, the trees develop die back at the tips and is conditions worsen more and more of the leaf is called. This can get to the point where you can not call it die back any longer. It's called leaf drop. I've recently seen a number of orchards that are completely defoliated. No leaves. We have had a number of homeowner calls asking what the problem is and what they can do about it. The damage is done and those leaves are not coming back. It's possible to reduce the damage if one acts early on by applying more water than is usually applied to aid the leaching process, but if it is poor quality water, there will still be damage, but possibly not defoliation. With high priced water or where water is being rationed, many growers and homeowners do not have themake the option of putting on the excess water. There is no chemical or equipment that is going to make the situation better. When you trees defoliating, you want to cut out those that are diseased or you know have been poor producers and put what water you have on the remaining trees in better condition.
This advice is good for other evergreen tree crops like citrus, although they are not as sensitive as avocado. Avocado is an indication of how bad it really is.