What Can Happen With Too Much Rain?
Rain is wonderful stuff. If it comes and washes the accumulated salts of the last several years out of the root zones of citrus and avocado, that's a good thing. But what happens if there is a little too much of the good stuff? In the winter of 2005, Venture got over 40” of rain, which is 200% of what is normal. The last time big rains occurred prior to that was in the winter of 1997-98. That year the rains were evenly spaced on almost a weekly basis through the winter and into the late spring and over 50" fell. That year we had major problems with both citrus and avocados collapsing from asphyxiation. The same occurred in 2005, but not so pronounced.
This April we have had a lot more rain than we normally see and in some young trees with poorly developed root systems, we have seen some collapse from asphyxiation. Avocados tend to be more susceptible than citrus, and some rootstocks more than others.
Asphyxiation is a physiological problem that may affect certain branches, whole limbs or the entire tree. Leaves wilt and may fall, the fruit withers and drops and the branches die back to a greater or lesser extent. The condition develops so rapidly that it may be regarded as a form of collapse. Usually, the larger stems and branches remain alive, and after a time, vigorous new growth is put out so that the tree tends to recover. Young trees can be harder hit, but sunburn damage from lack of leaves may be more of a problem.
Asphyxiation is related to the air and water conditions of the soil. The trouble appears mainly in fine-textured or shallow soils with impervious sub-soils. In 1997-98, this even occurred on slopes with normally good drainage because the rains were so frequent. When such soils are over-irrigated or wetted by rains, the water displaces the soil oxygen. The smaller roots die when deprived of oxygen. When the stress of water shortage develops, the impaired roots are unable to supply water to the leaves rapidly enough and the tree collapses. The condition is accentuated when rainy weather is followed by winds or warm conditions. These are exactly the conditions we saw in the last weeks of April and beginning of May - wet weather and then 90 degree heat. Boom. hence some of the problems in young orchards on heavier soils.
It doesn't take standing water to have asphyxiation occur.
Canopy treatment in less severe instances of asphyxiation consists of cutting back the dead branches to live wood. If leaf drop has been excessive, the tree should be whitewashed to prevent sunburn. Fruit, if mature should be harvested as soon as possible to prevent loss. In the case of young trees, less than two years of age, recovery sometimes does not occur, and replanting should be considered if vigorous regrowth does not occur by July. As soon as defoliation is evident, whitewashing should be done to protect them to give them a chance for recovery.
Asphyxiation can be reduced by proper planting and grading. If an impervious layer is identified, it should be ripped prior to planting. The field should be graded so that water has somewhere to run off the field during high rainfall years. Heavier soils might require planting on berms or mounds so that the crown roots have a better chance of being aerated.
Hindsight is always great. Post-plant, if an impervious layer can be identified and is shallow enough to break through, ripping alongside the tree or drilling 4-6 inch post holes at the corners of the tree canopy can improve drainage. It is important that the ripper blade or auger gets below the impervious layer for this technique to be effective. If there is a thick layer of mulch reducing soil evaporation, pulling it back to allow the sun to help dry it out faster will help. It's not a lot of work with small trees, but big time work if it's big trees with thick mulch.
Asphyxiated tree that has been whitewashed
Thanks for the rains that leach the soils of accumulated salts and bring on new fresh growth. Or maybe not. When we apply irrigation water with salts which with few exceptions we do in irrigated agriculture, salts accumulate in the soil. They accumulate in a certain pattern depending on the type of irrigation and soil type. There's a strong tendency for drip and microsprinklers to form a pattern of salt accumulation near the margins of the wetted patterns. This pattern is stronger with drip because the source point is always pushing a front outward from the emission point. This pattern occurs with microsprinklers, as well, although not as strongly. These patterns continue to form and accumulate as long as there is no rainfall to evenly push the salt down below the root zone. The longer the period of no rain, the larger the salt concentration at the margin.
So the way water moves is generally down. It moves in a wetting front drawn by gravity. It moves laterally too, because of the attraction water has for the soil particles. It will move laterally more in a clay soil than in a sandy soil because there are more particles in a clay soil than a sand (actually more surfaces that hold water). It also carries salt with it. Wherever the water moves, the salt moves. The more rain, the more salt is moved down. The more rain, the deeper the salt is pushed.
The problem with rain, is that if there is not enough, the salt tends to move laterally. In this wet soil solution, the salt is moving from where it is concentrated, to where there is a lower one. And if there isn't enough rain to move that salt down, it just moves back along the salt gradient, back to where the water first came from…….towards the roots. And that salt may be at such a high concentration that it can cause plant damage.
We talk about effective rainfall. This is usually about a quarter of an inch of rain. This is the amount of water to do more than just wet the dust, it's the amount to move water into the root zone. It is also moving salts into the root zone which can be a real problem. A good rain will do more than wet the dust, it will also move the salts out of harm's way in the root zone. The amount of rain necessary to do this is going to depend on the salt accumulated and the soil texture. The more salt, the more rain needed. The finer the texture, the more rain.
So there is no good cookbook, other than you need enough. And the first rains of the year, watch out. This is often when there is the highest salt accumulation and in the fall when we have the most irregular rains. Small rain amounts that can move salt into the root zone. A rule of thumb is a minimum of a good one inch rain event or combined rain events of two inches in a short period is needed to dissolve and move the salts out of the avocado root zone's top 18 inches. The more the better.
If there is not enough rain……………The solution !!!!!!!! Run the irrigation system to make sure there is enough to move that salt down.
Get ready to irrigate with the first rains if they are insufficient for adequate leaching.
Also get ready for the first smell of rain - petrichor.
Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɪkɔːr/) is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek petra (πέτρα), meaning "stone", and īchōr (ἰχώρ), the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.
The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian CSIRO researchers, Isabel Joy Bear and Richard G. Thomas, for an article in the journal Nature. In the article, the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, whereupon it is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, a metabolic by-product of certain actinobacteria, which is emitted by wet soil, producing the distinctive scent; ozone may also be present if there is lightning. In a follow-up paper, Bear and Thomas (1965) showed that the oil retards seed germination and early plant growth.
In 2015, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) used high-speed cameras to record how the scent moves into the air. The tests involved approximately 600 experiments on 28 different surfaces, including engineered materials and soil samples. When a raindrop lands on a porous surface, air from the pores forms small bubbles, which float to the surface and release aerosols. Such aerosols carry the scent, as well as bacteria and viruses from the soil. Raindrops that move at a slower rate tend to produce more aerosols; this serves as an explanation for why the petrichor is more common after light rains.
The human nose is extremely sensitive to geosmin and is able to detect it at concentrations as low as 5 parts per trillion. Some scientists believe that humans appreciate the rain scent because ancestors may have relied on rainy weather for survival.
These are hard days for navel oranges. Drought stress. Salt stress due to drought. Then a heat wave in July that messed the trees up. And now we head into a weird fall with maybe rain. Maybe no rain. Maybe a little rain. This is ripe for navel splitting. This time of year when they are starting to build sugar, they are also ripe for splitting.
Years of drought, and a stressed tree are a perfect set up for navel oranges and fruit splitting.
The days have turned cooler and suddenly out of nowhere there is rain. That wonderful stuff comes down and all seems right with the world, but then you notice the navel fruit are splitting. Rats! No, a dehydrated fruit that has taken on more water than its skin can take in and the fruit splits. This is called an abiotic disease. Not really a disease but a problem brought on by environmental conditions.
Fruit splitting is a long-standing problem in most areas where navel oranges are grown. In some years, the number of split fruit is high; in other years it is low. Splitting in navel oranges usually occurs on green fruit between September and November. In some years, splitting may also occur in Valencia oranges but it is less of a problem than in navel oranges.
Several factors contribute to fruit splitting. Studies indicate that changes in weather including temperature, relative humidity and wind may have more effect on fruit splitting than anything else. The amount of water in a citrus tree changes due to weather conditions and this causes the fruit to shrink and swell as water is lost or gained. If the water content changes too much or too rapidly the rind may split. In navel oranges the split usually occurs near the navel, which is a weak point in the rind.
Proper irrigation and other cultural practices can help reduce fruit splitting. Maintaining adequate but not excessive soil moisture is very important. A large area of soil around a tree should be watered since roots normally grow somewhat beyond the edge of the canopy. Wet the soil to a depth of at least 2 feet then allow it to become somewhat dry in the top few inches before irrigating again. Applying a layer of coarse organic mulch under a tree beginning at least a foot from the trunk can help conserve soil moisture and encourage feeder roots to grow closer to the surface.
If trees are fertilized, apply the correct amount of plant food and water thoroughly after it is applied. If the soil is dry, first irrigate, then apply fertilizer and irrigate again.
Reno, NV (Sept 10, 2018): Scientists from the Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC) at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Reno, Nev. are pleased to announce the release of a long-awaited update to a climate mapping tool called the California Climate Tracker.
"One really significant change between the old and new versions of the California Climate Tracker is that in the previous version, you weren't able to look at archived maps," said Daniel McEvoy, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor of Climatology at DRI and member of the Climate Tracker project team. "Now you can say for example, 'I want to see what the 1934 drought looked like,' and go back and get the actual maps and data from 1934. You can also look at graphs of the data and see trends in temperature and precipitation over time."
In addition to providing historical and modern data for regions across California, this easy-to-use web-based tool can be used to produce publication-quality graphics for reports, articles, presentations or other needs. It can be accessed for free by anyone with a standard web browser and an internet connection.
"The California Climate Tracker was initially designed and developed for use by the California Department of Water Resources, but we hope it is also useful to a much broader community of water managers, climatologists, meteorologists and researchers in California," McEvoy said.
So if you have lemons, read this. And if we have rain, really read this. I think because we prune lemons so much, this is more of a lemon problem, because I've never heard of other citrus getting it. It is a wood decay fungus on a lot of other tree species, though. Does anyone know what "sambuci" translates as?
Chlorotic, undersized, sparse leaves and branch dieback are common symptoms of wood decay fungi infecting roots, the basal trunk (root crown), or limbs. These fungi include Armillaria mellea, Hyphoderma sambuci, Ganoderma spp., and Oxyporus spp. These fungi are called white rots because they often cause decayed wood to become soft and white or yellow. Brown rots, such as those caused by Antrodia sinuosa and Coniophora spp., primarily decay cellulose and hemicellulose. They leave behind the brownish wood lignin, which is usually dry and crumbly.
Wood decay fungi produce fruiting bodies on the bark, root crown, or stumps or growing from soil near trunks. Fruiting bodies may be obvious toadstool- or umbrella-shaped mushrooms like those of Armillaria spp. or large and shelflike as with Ganoderma spp. Oxyporus spp. produce bracket-shaped, seashell-shaped, or thin and pale fruit bodies. Some decay fungi, such as Antrodia and Hyphoderma spp., form relatively inconspicuous crusts on infected bark. Fruiting bodies produce numerous tiny spores that spread in wind or splashing water.
Decay fungi initiate infections when their spores contact injured tissue on living trees, such as wounds from pruning, vertebrate chewing, or infection sites of Phytophthora or other pathogens. Decay fungi can colonize stumps and infect through root grafts to adjacent trees. Spores landing on dead limbs initiate infections that spread to the attached living wood. Most decay fungi are saprophytes that can only grow on severely stressed or injured hosts, or they must first produce substantial inoculum on dead wood.
Avoid wood decay by providing trees with good growing conditions and optimal cultural care to promote vigorous tree growth. Protect bark from injury. Avoid making large wounds (such as pruning cuts), especially during the rainy or foggy season. When a tree is cut down or disease is spreading from an infected tree (such as by root contact), remove the entire tree—including the stump and major roots.
If it rains or we finally have some Valley/Tule Fog or if we have a winter with heavy dew and you have lemons, read further about Hyphoderma sambuci.
Hyphoderma gummosis is reported in the field only on lemon. It occurs in the San Joaquin Valley and coastal growing areas. This wood decay fungus causes branch wilting and dieback that ultimately results in tree death. It cannot infect its host through intact bark. To initiate infections, it requires injuries such as pruning wounds. Spores colonize exposed wood and during moist conditions produce new infections. A crust of pink to white fungal growth of Hyphoderma sambuci appears around infected wounds after wet weather.
Provide good cultural care that encourages vigorous tree growth. Prevent irrigation water from directly wetting bark. Avoid wounding bark. When pruning trees, wait at least one month after the end of the rainy season before making cuts, because Hyphoderma basidiospores require moist conditions to survive and cause infections. Prune out all infected wood during dry conditions and remove it from the orchard.
Plant Shield is a product of an antagnonistic fungus - Trichoderma harzianum- that can be painted on wounds to prevent this gummosis. It's best to just avoid pruning in wet weather, though.
photo: Crusty pink fruiting bodies and wet area on lemon branch