Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Client's Request: Thank you for calling the UC Master Gardener Program Help Desk this morning with a question about your young peach tree.
You have a young tree, planted bare root into a pot in January 2018, and then transplanted directly into the garden in the late spring / early summer when you were able to do so. You planted several fruit trees at the same time, and all were planted initially into pots and then into the garden, in roughly similar locations, with good drainage in the garden. All of the trees have been similarly irrigated. All of the trees are doing well with the exception of the peach. The peach had curling leaves last year (every single leaf appeared wilted) and you would like to prevent this, this year. You are wondering whether this is “peach leaf curl” or something else, and whether or not to presume it was peach leaf curl and to spray now.
If, after looking at these images, you decide that your leaves looked like this, then I would proceed as recommended in the UC Pest Note linked above.
If you do not think that your leaves looked like this, then we need to consider other possibilities. Wilted leaves can be evidence of a water transport problem in the plant. In this case, something in the vascular system isn't working as it should.
Beginning with the transplant from pot to garden last year, is it possible that the root ball was damaged? Or that there were air pockets in the garden created during transplant, causing some of the roots to dry out? Or that moles, squirrels or other garden visitors have created air pockets near the roots? If you think this is possible then I would dig down and fill those pockets with a wet-soil-sludge mixture to fill them in.
Is it possible that you have overwatered or that the drainage isn't quite as good as you had thought? Good drainage is one of the most important factors in siting fruit trees. Excess water in the root zone will produce a similar-looking result in the plant to a lack of water, since the roots will rot and cannot perform their intended function. In this case be cautious this spring with watering. Once the rains stop and you begin watering again, use a moisture meter or dig down 4 to 6 inches, and learn about your soil. Or perhaps you didn't water enough? Young trees are particularly susceptible to roots drying out. This link discusses irrigation of fruit trees:
Young trees have undeveloped root systems that are not very extensive. Because of this, your young trees need consistent moisture levels in their root zone in order to thrive. The "goldilocks" amount: not too much, not too little.
Some peaches are susceptible to root-feeding nematodes. Nematodes are tiny, eel-like roundworms. The species that attack plants are usually too small to be seen without a microscope, a soil test will be required. Here is a link to our local ist of soil testing labs for home gardeners. (http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/files/51308.pdf) Different labs perform different tests at different costs. I suggest that you call all or some of the labs to find out if they test for root feeding nematodes, whether or not the tests can provide definitive results, and the costs.
Inadequate nutrition from the soil can also result in discolored and crinkly leaves, look at the pictures at this link:
The soil test can also provide information about the nutrition available in your garden soil, if you request this.
You mentioned that you purchased the tree from a local nursery. Although a few local nurseries (usually bigger stand-alone ones) also are a grower for some species, they do not grow their own fruit trees, they rather purchase them (this year, last year, and many years prior) from a grower specializing in fruit trees, often in the Central Valley or lately for citrus in the Monterey Bay area. You might take a look at one of the various grower nursery websites and look up the particular variety of peach that you purchased to find out what you can learn. Most of the nursery grown fruit trees are grafted on root stocks. Some rootstocks are resistant to root-feeding nematodes. It might be helpful to know whether you have a more susceptible tree by identifying the rootstock which can often be found in the grower's catalogue or web site..
Overall, this link will give you valuable information on planting, care, and irrigation of young trees. http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8048.pdf
Good luck with sorting this out and please contact us if we can help further.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (MCW)
Note: UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available almost year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays (e.g., last 2 weeks December), we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 2380 Bisso Lane, Concord, CA 94520. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 608-6683, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/. MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ignore.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog.
Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Home Gardener's Request: Here are some recent pictures this spring of similarly affected peach trees in the County. Several home gardeners with peach trees affected with this problem have recently asked the Help Desk for any information about what this is and how to treat it.
MGCC's Help Desk Response: Thank you for the questions to the Master Gardener Program's Help Desk with your problems with your peach trees. Based upon our review, it looks like you have a very common fungus called Peach Leaf Curl. There are UC documents with links below that I urge you to read. They will help you care for your peach trees year-round which should help you control this disease.
Unfortunately, there is little you can do right now. Some pick off the distorted leaves, but there is little evidence that this improves control. The tree needs to be sprayed with a copper fungicide in the fall and again in late winter/early spring before buds break. The linked "pnleafcurl.pdf" article below will give you more specific information about proper control methods and products.
For example, it says: "Peach leaf curl, also known as leaf curl, is a disease caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans. Peach leaf curl affects the blossoms, fruit, leaves, and shoots of peaches, ornamental flowering peaches, and nectarines, and is one of the most common disease problems for backyard gardeners growing these trees.
The distorted, reddened foliage that it causes is easily seen in spring. When severe, the disease can reduce fruit production substantially...Normally, diseased leaves fall off within a few weeks and are replaced by new, healthy leaves, unless it is rainy.
If a tree is severely affected with peach leaf curl this can stunt its growth, so consider thinning fruit later in the season. Pruning in fall prior to applying any fungicides can reduce spore numbers overwintering on the tree and reduce the amount of fungicide needed. If leaf curl symptoms occurred on your trees in spring, be sure to treat the following fall and/or winter to prevent more serious losses the following year. When using pesticides, always read and follow the label for usage, rates, toxicity, and proper disposal. Proper protective clothing and gear including goggles should be used when handling any pesticides" (Emphasis mine).
I hope this information helps you get your leaf curl fungus problem under control. Your pictures do not appear to show a heavy infestation, so taking proper control methods this fall and next spring before the leaves open should prove effective.
Help Desk of the Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (TDT)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: email@example.com, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/).
Advice From the Help Desk of the UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County
Client's Question: Last spring when my peach tree leafed out the leaves were all funny shaped. Can you tell me what the problem is and how to prevent it from happening again?
Symptoms Appear in Spring:Peach leaf curl first appears in spring as reddish areas on developing leaves. These areas become thickened and puckered, causing leaves to curl and severely distort. Later, affected leaves turn yellow or brown and can remain on the tree or may fall off. They are usually replaced by a second set of leaves that develop normally unless wet weather continues. The loss of leaves and producing new leaves results in decreased growth and fruit production and may expose branches to sunburn.
Peach Leaf Curl Prevention: Preventing peach leaf curl is relatively easy. You must spray peach and nectarine trees with a fungicide during the dormant season every year after leaves have fallen. A single early treatment when the tree is dormant is generally effective. However, with a particularly wet winter or spring, it may be advisable to apply a second spray late in the dormant season, preferably as flower buds begin to swell, but before green leaf tips are first visible.
Types of Preventives:The most commonly used, safest, and effective fungicides available to home owners are “fixed copper products”, but there are other products available as described in the University of California publication on controlling peach leaf curl. This free publication is available on the web at: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7426.html.
Thorough coverage by the spray is the key. In any case, if leaf curl symptoms occurred on your trees last spring, be sure to treat now to prevent more serious losses the following year.
For More Information:You can find more information on growing peaches on UC's Home Orchard web site at: http://homeorchard.ucanr.edu/Fruits_&_Nuts/Peach/
Editor's Note: This is an updated version of an article originally written by MGCC and published in the Contra Costa Times December 4, 2010.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County
Note: The UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/blogroll.cfm)./span>/span>