Can anyone identify what is going on with my peach trees?

lisadimatteoApril 1, 2013


I posted briefly on this last year and didn't get any conclusive information. I'm trying again wondering if early season photographic evidence makes what is occurring with my peach trees easier to identify.

I have 3 peach trees in my backyard, where they were located when I bought this Boston area property nearly 4 years ago.

My first summer season provided beautiful peaches. The second and third have been awful. The peaches when maturing develop a clear 'puss' that oozes from the peach rendering them unattractive but not inedible.

I was told that most likely my trees suffered from peach leaf curl or some other fungus that would be resolved with a treatment or two of copper fungicide. For the past 2 springs and one autumn we have applied a generous spray of copper fungicide according to the instructions provided by our local garden center and the product container. Last summer we also plucked most of the curled leaves.

It's now early Spring and the first buds are starting to appear. I have attached several photos of what the trunks look like. I'm not sure if this is a clue but I am guessing it has to be because while I'm not a green thumb, I've never seen trees whose trunks look like this.

Does anyone have any advice, ideas...direction for me to look into?

Thanks a million in advance,

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another photo

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 12:54PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Those look like damage from bacterial canker. Peaches often get it but it is rarely fatal if the tree is otherwise healthy (pruned back well, in a sunny spot, good soil, etc.) The copper also helps on that so keep doing that.

The pus oozing from peaches is usually from the oriental fruit moth. When you open up the peaches there will be a worm. Sometimes fruits ooze on their own, thats just due to sudden changes in water level and there is nothing you can do about that. In either case the oozing peaches are not related to these marks on your trunk or the peach leaf curl.

Peaches are hard to grow. I need 8 or so sprays per year on mine to get decent fruit (this is with organic sprays only, if you use synthetics you may be able to get away with fewer).


    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 3:05PM
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Scott: Thanks for your reply. When you say 8 sprays, with what are you spraying them? And when?

These free were on the property when I bought it and the first year they were amazing...lots of peaches that were perfect. I'd love to do whatever I can (within reason) to improve the situation.

Will the spraying take care of the canker? If not, do you know what does?

I have never seen a worm inside the peaches.

Would it be helpful to add some compost or other soil mix around the trunk...I've not done much at all to the ground around the peaches.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 9:45AM
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alan haigh

Lisa, I am in southeastern NY and manage many, many peach trees in many different small orchards. I can usually get peaches with 3 sprays using synthetic compounds- sometimes only 2. They are harder to grow down where Scott lives.

Canker seems as much a symptom of environmental stress as the result of a pathogen. Vigorously growing trees seem immune but often as trees age- especially in neglect, canker becomes increasingly prevalent.

Peaches don't like sites with poor drainage and yet they also suffer disproportionately from drought and competition from nearby forest-type (big) trees.

The best way to treat canker isn't with copper but with an improvement of growing conditions. Mulching a large ring below the trees can be very helpful.
When fruit rots on the trees it can create a great deal of stress as well as the brown rot infects small branches.

Providing them with some form of nitrogen can also help increase vigor as well as proper pruning. Peaches generally need to be carefully pruned more than any other species I grow.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 10:50AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Hi Lisa,

I actually recognized your name from a few years ago and found your old posts dealing with these trees:

Peach tree issue


Peach Tree troubles

I'm sorry you've been fighting this for so long and are still struggling with these trees.

Scott and Hman have give you some sound advice.

From your past threads, I think it's conclusive your trees have had issues with peach leaf curl. You mention last summer you still had to pull off "curled" leaves, so it sounds like you're still having issues with leaf curl.

Because of this, I'm going to recommend a stronger product to you for leaf curl. It is available at garden centers and has the active ingredient "chlorothalonil". It is sold under names like Fungonil or Danconil. Like any leaf curl product, it must be applied after leaf drop in the fall, and/or before buds swell for it to work, which may mean its too late for you this spring. I applied my leaf curl sprays on a warm Feb. day this year.

Oozing peaches are a result of some damage to the peach. Think of the ooze as the peach bleeding. It is the peach's way of protecting itself from injury. The blood/ooze bleeds out of the wound and hardens to form a sort of protective "scab". Anything can cause injury to the peach/fruitlet and cause bleeding. Most commonly it's a small worm. Sometimes the worm will crawl out of the peach, so that you don't see it when you open the peach.

Some beetle type insects will also feed on the fruit. They have piercing mouthparts that suck the juice out of the peach. The site of feeding is an injury and can produce oozing.

Any mechanical injury that breaks the skin of a peach (even a very minute break) can cause oozing. However, since it appears to affect most of the peaches in your case and you describe them as unattractive, it sounds a lot like insect damage which will require insecticide sprays to prevent this problem.

I would also agree with Scott that you have some canker issues going on in the photos. The best antidote against canker is to promote healthy vigorous trees. Good drainage, a large weed free mulch ring around the trees, eliminating symptoms of leaf curl, and good pruning to promote new growth and open up the tree to sunlight are important.

For peach trees grown outside in the soil, a good measure of the health of the tree is how much annual growth the tree puts on. Weak trees will have little new growth (red wood) and will have a significant amount of dead shoots. Healthy vigorous trees will easily have some shoots with 3' of growth or more (if left unpruned). Observe the growth from last season to assess the general vigor of your tree.

Canker can continue to spread and eventually kill the tree, but good cultural practices will go a long way to halt or heal the damage. Of the ones mentioned, good drainage and a mulch ring are the most critical in my area.

I'm not surprised you were able to harvest peaches effortlessly your first year. Insects, diseases and other pests sometimes take a few years to "show up" and when they do they don't want to leave the party.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 11:18AM
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alan haigh

Lisa, because you have more or less the same pest issues as I do in southeastern NY I can say that peaches often produce fruit without spray on certain sites- not reliably necessarily, but at least sometimes. Usually I see this in fairly well tamed areas with lots of neat lawns and not much in the way wild meadows where peach pests can multiply and spread.

Tarnished plant bug is a common pest for us that pierces the fruit for nourishment but does not lay eggs in the fruit- it tends to populate areas with broadleaf weeds or clover. Even plum curculio may feed on peaches without laying eggs because the fuzz is somewhat repellent to this common pest. Both could injure the fruit without there being worms.

Olpea and Scott have both provided excellent and well informed advice, but I do know your pest complex well. Olpea is dead-on about peach leaf curl but you may well still have time to spray if you do so by this weekend- I don't think your leaf buds are growing yet.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 12:20PM
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Lisa, I'm in Central MA. I don't know where you are but my peaches are at bud swell stage. Your may be the same, too late to spray for peach leave curl.

I don't know if your copper fungicide contains sufficient copper hydroxide to be effective. Many here use copper product called Kocide 3000 by Dupont. You need to mail order it.

For bugs, Triazicide One and Done (for fruit trees, not for lawn) is recommended to spray two weeks after you see little peaches. Your may need to spray more times depending on how much bug pressure you get.

I only spray once. As soon as peaches is at thumb size (or even smaller), I put fruit sox on all my peaches. Mine are soaked in Kaolin clay (brand name-Surround) to prevent bug bites on fruit. I don't have to spray the rest of the season.

However, my peaches got bad scab last year. Surround-soaked sox did nothing to prevent scab. This year, I plan to spray for scab before I put sox on them. Your can buy these sox on Home Orchard Society website.

If there is any comfort, you are not alone. I've found growing peach is not easy. It's my 4th year. I have a new problem (or two) every year. I just found out my new Autumn Star peach get bacterial canker!!! Oh, well.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 6:26PM
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