Growing nut and fruit trees in any capacity, but especially as a large-scale agricultural venture, can yield very healthy dividends for farmers. This is especially true in seasons when particular nuts and fruits are popular and heavily sought-after.
However, just as they are profitable, fruit and nut trees are also susceptible to many problems—challenges that range from mere nuisances that can inhibit produce growth to serious diseases and pests that can outright kill crops. It is therefore important for any farmer to be knowledgeable about these threats and take a proactive approach in preventing them from taking root in the first place. By doing so, farmers can assure themselves of a healthy and profitable yield come the harvest.
One proactive preventative method that is fast becoming popular among big produce farms is crop health monitoring through aerial spectral imagery. This monitoring method involves the use of aircraft with cameras and sensors, which take high-definition images of crops while flying over the farm being analyzed. By capturing these images on different light spectrum wavelengths—most of which are invisible to the human eye—and analyzing the results with biological and mathematical modeling, specific crop health problems can be detected and pinpointed.
With that in mind, here are some of the most common nut and fruit tree problems all farmers need to be aware of.
Most if not all crops suffer from pests. Despite the hardy nature of many fruit and nut trees, they are unfortunately not an exception to this rule. In fact, we can consider them more susceptible to pests, as their size and longevity not only make for perfect breeding grounds for pests, but the produce they bear can also serve as sustenance for these critters. Here are some of the most common types of pests:
These insects are called such because while they can cause damage and disfigurement on the plants and trees that they thrive upon, it is only when they are in great numbers that they can truly cause considerable detriment to a crop’s growth. The infestation of such insects be quickly resolved through the use of common insecticides as well as thorough and hard watering. Farmers can also use natural, plant-beneficial predators such as lady beetles and green lacewings. Examples of insects in this pest category are aphids and whiteflies.
In contrast to nuisance insects, there are those that pose a serious threat to a plant’s growth, easily able to kill growing branches and leaves even before they’re matured. Scale insects are an example of such pests, sporting many different subspecies that attack specific kinds of fruit- and nut-bearing plants. Scale insect infestation can also be addressed through targeted application of insecticides, timely pruning, and introducing their natural predators to crops.
Borer insects can be considered the most insidious of insect pests as they go directly for the crop that grows on produce-bearing trees. However, unlike scale insects—which mostly feed on fruits and nuts for their own sustenance—borer insects burrow into fruits and nuts in order to lay their young in them, thus giving them a source of food as soon as they’re born. Obviously this can have a massive detrimental effect on the yield of a crop, as any fruit or nut is rendered inedible—and thus useless—by such an infestation. Borer insect infestation can be addressed through careful timing of targeted and safe pesticides.
Hardy trees that bear fruit and nut can also suffer from diseases, many of which not only can affect crop growth and harvest yield but also kill off the infected tree entirely. This particular problem of fruit and nut trees can be considered much more serious than pests, as more often than not, the disease itself is incurable once symptoms are visible, necessitating the killing and removal of the infected crop. This makes prevention through monitoring all the more essential.
Some of the more common diseases that affect fruit and nut trees include:
This fungal disease can produce leaf spots and cankers on twigs and branches, causing them to prematurely wilt and drop off. This can either result in tree defoliation or the formation of lesions on the fruits or nuts of the infected tree. Symptoms can also manifest in other tree kinds as the formation of dark or brown spots on the leaves. Anthracnose infection can be addressed by either the periodical application of fungicides such as mancozeb and benomyl, or by replacing the crop with varieties specifically resistant against anthracnose. Preventing infection also requires the use of fungicides as well as stringent sanitation, especially in wet weather seasons where fungi can quickly thrive.
This is another fungal disease that is caused by fungi and is prone to develop during cool, moist weather. Leaf spot infection, as their name implies, causes spots to form on leaves that will eventually decompose or rot off, creating the appearance of leaves that have been ‘shot’ through. As this affects the leaves, it hampers the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and thus also negatively affects crop yield and growth. Addressing this particular infection involves starting a spraying program using copper fungicide.
This particular disease that affects both nut and fruit trees equally is caused not by fungal but by bacterial infection—specifically, the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae. It causes photosynthesis-inhibiting black leaf spots that enlarge into brown patches. These brown patches may also spread to the tree’s flowers and fruits. Thankfully, this is one of the diseases that does not kill the tree outright, and can be managed by pruning branches that sport the spots or patches as soon as they’re visible.
Oak root fungus
This deadly and incurable tree disease only shows its symptoms once infection has truly set in, and once it does, there is no other recourse for the farmer except to cull the tree and ensure it is completely removed from the premises—including its roots. Oak root fungus manifests as small gold-colored mushrooms growing at the foot of the tree. Only by proper irrigation practices—for instance preventing excessive moisture buildup around trees and tree trunks—oak root fungus be prevented.
There are many diseases and pests that can affect fruit and nut trees. Therefore, farmers who are looking to earn revenue through fruit and nut harvests need to be proactive in preventing these threats, as in many cases, treatments might not be enough and cures might not even be possible. Through methods such as crop monitoring, farmers can be proactive and avoid losses from such threats.