Stem and leaf blights are symptoms that appear for various reasons – high rainfall or humidity, spray burn, chewing insect infestation. Here in California we can add other causes, such as drought and salinity burn. These conditions can cause wounding of leaf and stems allowing entry of fungal spores that can cause leaf and stem dieback. This condition is most common near the coast where weather conditions can change from mild and low temperatures to extremely high temperature with winds, such as the Santa Anas or the Sundowners in Santa Barbara. Leaves suddenly dry out, causing cracking either at that time or when they are rehydrated with irrigation. This allows spore entry into the wounds and permits the pathogen to grow in the dead tissue. Symptoms appear 7 – 10 days after the stress. These are decay fungi that create these spores and they are the ones that cause decay of dead tissue on the ground. So their spores are everywhere.
The greater part of a tree is dead – the woody part of the branches and trunk. And it is dead tissue that these fungi are feeding on. Most trees will limit the growth of the fungus by sealing off the infection with gums of various sorts. In that case, the disease is limited and you may only see a leaf or small branch dying back. In mature trees it is possible to see a small branch here and there that has died back, but the bulk of the canopy is still green. It has been called “salt and pepper syndrome”, because of that speckled appearance. In the case of young trees with their smaller root systems and a lesser ability to seal of the disease process, a whole tree can die.
Since this is a severe water stress or salt stress induced problem, the most important management issue is to watch the weather forecasts predicting unusual hot, dry weather and make sure the trees are adequately irrigated going into the stressful period. Shallow rooted trees like avocados are more prone to dry out rapidly in these high water demand situations, but it can be occur in other trees (citrus, apple, peach) and shrubs if the weather conditions are severe enough. With poor leaching due to low rainfall, this can be more of a problem
The only solution to the symptoms is to cut out the diseased parts to prevent its further spread. Once the disease starts spreading, the fungus can produce copious amounts of spores, which in the case of avocado can cause cankers and rots on the fruit.
Figure. In the case of young trees, the whole tree may die from blight.
Here's a list of links for growers and homeowners on how to prepare for fire and in the case of fruit trees, how to treat them after they have burned and how to calculate the loss of a commercial fruit tree.
Spread sheets to help you calculate loss
Information from Ben Faber, Soils and Water, Avocado and Minor Subtropicals Advisor
Information on how to care for fire damaged trees from Ben Faber, Soils and Water, Avocado and Minor Subtropicals Advisor
Information on fire ecology and fire safe landscaping for homeowners, developed by Sabrina Drill, Natural Resources Advisor
Information on fire science from UC experts. Includes information on how to make homes and other structures more fire resistant, developed by Steve Quarles, Statewide Wood Performance and Durability Advisor
Local Fire Departments - have regulatory information you may need
Publications Available From University of California ANR Catalog
You can find the publications listed below at theUniversity of California DANR Catalog site (In the ANR Search type fire) and order more than one publication at a time or you may click on one of the links below.if you purchase a priced publication enter the promotion code PRVEN56 at check-out. You'll receive a 10% discount on your order, and a portion of the sales will benefit local programs.
A Property Owner's Guide to Reducing Wildfire Threat - describes ways homeowners can reduce the threat of fire to their property. Cost $1.50
Home Landscaping for Fire - Incorporating fire safe concepts into your landscape is one of the most important ways you can help your home survive a wildfire. FREE
Landscaping Tips to Help Defend Your Home from Wildfire - You can have both a beautiful landscape and a defensible fire-safe zone. FREE
Recovering from Wildfire - discusses issues that family forest landowners should consider following a wildfire. Cost $5.00
WildFire: How Can We Live With It? (DVD) - This program contains general information about wildland fire in California. Cost $20.00
Companion Set: How Can We Live with Wildland Fire? (Publication and DVD) - What role does fire play in the natural cycle and what choices can we make about coping with wildland fire? Cost $27.50
How Can We Live with Wildland Fire? - What role does fire play in the natural cycle and what choices can we make about coping with wildland fire? Cost $10.00/span>
- Author: Gary Bender
- Author: David Shaw
OK! Let's Strategize. There are four steps for everybody to consider, it doesn't matter if you have a backyard lawn and landscape or if you have 700 acres of avocados.
1. Maintenance: Irrigation System and Cultural Practices
2. Improve Irrigation Scheduling
3. Deficit Irrigation
4. Reduce Irrigated Area
a. Irrigation System.
- Fix leaks. Unfortunately, there are almost always leaks for all kinds of reasons. Pickers step on sprinklers, squirrels eat through polytube, branches drop on valves, coyote puppies like to chew….the system should be checked during every irrigation
- Drain the lines. At the beginning of each year every lateral line should be opened in order to drain the fine silt that builds up.
- Maintain or increase the uniformity of irrigation so that each tree or each area gets about the same amount of water. Common problems include different sized sprinklers on the same line or pressure differences in the lines. Where there are elevation changes, every line should have a pressure regulator, they come pre-set to 30 psi. Having all of your lines set up with pressure regulators is the only way you can get an even distribution of water to all of the trees, and it solves the problem of too much pressure at the bottom of the grove and not enough at the top.
- Clean the filters often. You don't have a filter because you think that the district water has already been filtered? Hah! What happens if there is a break in the line in the street and the line fills with dirt during the repairs? All of your sprinklers will soon be filled with dirt.
- Is water flow being reduced at the end of the lateral line? It could be because scaffold roots are growing old enough to pinch off the buried line. The only cure is to replace the line.
b. Cultural Management.
- Control the weeds because weeds can use a lot of water.
- Mulch? Mulching is good for increasing biological activity in the soil and reducing stress on the trees, but the mulch will not save a lot of water if you are irrigating often….the large evaporative surface in mulches causes a lot of water to evaporate if the mulch surface is kept wet through frequent irrigation. Mulches are more helpful in reducing water use if the trees are young and a lot of soil is exposed to direct sunlight.
2. Improve the Irrigation Scheduling.
- CIMIS will calculate the amount of water to apply in your grove based on last week’s water evapotranspiration (ET). You can get to CIMIS by using several methods; for avocado growers the best method is to use the irrigation calculator on the www.avocado.org website. If you need further instruction on this, you can call our office and ask for the Avocado Irrigation Calculator Step by Step paper. You need to know the application rater of your mini-sprinklers and the distribution uniformity of your grove’s irrigation system.
- CIMIS tells you how much water to apply, but you need tensiometers, soil probes or shovels to tell you when to water.
- “Smart Controllers” have been used successfully in landscape and we have used one very successfully in an avocado irrigation trial The one we used allowed us to enter the crop coefficient for avocado into the device, and daily ET information would come in via a cell phone connection. When the required ET (multiplied automatically by the crop coefficient) reached the critical level, the irrigation system would come on, and then shut down when the required amount had been applied. Increased precision can be obtained by fine tuning these devices with the irrigation system precipitation (application) rate.
3. Deficit Irrigation.
- Deficit irrigation is the practice of applying less water than the ET of the crop or plant materials. Deficit irrigation is useful for conserving water in woody landscape ornamentals and drought tolerant plants where crop yield is not an issue. Water conserved in these areas may be re-allocated to other areas on the farm or landscape.
- There hasn’t been enough research on deficit irrigation of avocado for us to comment. We suspect, however, that deficit irrigation will simply lead to dropped fruit and reduced yield.
- Stumping the avocado tree could be considered a form of deficit irrigation. In this case, the tree should be stumped in the spring, painted with white water-based paint to reflect heat, and the sprinkler can be capped for at least 2 months. As the tree starts to re-grow, some water should be added back, probably about 10-20% of the normal water use of a mature tree.
- Regulated Deficit Irrigation for Citrus is an important method for saving water, and in some cases will reduce puff and crease of the peel. In one orange trial done by Dr. David Goldhammer in the San Joaquin Valley, an application of 25% of ETc from mid-May to Mid July saved about 25% of applied water for the year and reduced crease by 67%, without appreciably reducing yield.
- 3. Reduce Irrigated Area.
- Taking trees out of production. Trees that are chronically diseased and do not produce fruit (or the fruit is poor quality) should be taken out of production during this period. Also consider: trees in frosty areas, trees in wind-blown areas, trees near eucalyptus and other large trees that steal the water from the fruit trees.
- Changing crops. You may want to take out those Valencias during this period and replant to something that brings in more money, like seedless, easy-peeling mandarins. The young trees will be using a lot less water.
- Fallow Opportunities. You may decide to do some soil preparation, tillage or cultivation, or even soil solarization of non-irrigated areas.
We have found that this four step process is a logical way to achieve water cutbacks with least impact. It is possible to achieve a ten percent reduction in water by only improving irrigation system uniformity and scheduling procedures. Often, these two measures also result in better crop performance and reduced runoff. Reducing irrigated area or taking areas out of production should be a last resort and a well thought out decision. Plan for the future, hopefully water will be more available in future years.
The weather is perfect for looking for Asian Citrus Psyllid. There is new flush and that is where the adults go to lay their eggs and feed. This is also the tissue where aphids and scale crawlers will be found, as well.
ACP has been active all this winter, but now is when they are going to be the most noticeable. Get out there and look and alert the CDFA Exotic Pest Hotline to confirm a find, 1-800-491-1899.
ACP adult and nymphs with waxy exudate from nymphs.
At a recent conference on Postharvest Technology Advances, Cristina Davis from the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering presented information on the development of a device that can smell out trees infected with Huanglongbing (HLB).
Scientists at UC Davis are refining a mobile chemical sensor that can detect diseased citrus trees by sniffing their volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are emitted by all types of plants and contribute to their distinctive odors—such as the perfume of orange blossoms and pungent scent of garlic in the air. VOCs must exist at very high levels for humans to smell them, and there are some VOCs people cannot smell at all. The machine is able to figure out the signature smells of HLB infected trees, sort of the way people evaluate wines with terms like “grassy”, “plum”, or “austere”, and distinguish them from healthy or trees infected by other diseases.
Finding HLB-infected trees and eliminating them before Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) picks up the disease and spreads it to neighboring trees is a major challenge. The pathogen in the tree cannot be detected by leaf testing for three to nine months after infection, and the symptoms don’t show up in the tree for a year or more after infection. Meanwhile, the disease can be spread by ACP. Research is under way to develop early HLB detection so that infected trees can be rapidly removed. Early detection will also allow researchers to more rapidly assess treatment programs for controlling not only the spread of the disease, but also possible cures or rootstocks or scion varieties that might have some resistance to the disease.
HLB infected tree showing mottling in one part of the canopy