Meyer lemon in trouble

steve_in_los_ososOctober 22, 2012

I sort of "share" a Meyer lemon tree with my neighbors (it's on their property, abutting my driveway; I bought it, they planted it and more or less care for it; they use more lemons than I do). The tree has been in the ground about 8-10 years now and until last Winter it was the lemon tree from Hell, as most are. More lemons than all the immediate domiciles could use.

Then new leaf growth started to be contorted (no aphids) and yellowish. Lemons that formed were deformed, small and tending to tapering points at the blossom end. They had lesions on them. Flower buds aborted.

My neighbor took specimens to a local nursery and was told that it looked like thrip damage of some sort. A little background here: we live in an area where Myoporums have been the "weed tree" of choice for many years. These trees are now under fatal attack from an imported thrip which weakens them and invites all kinds of secondary problems, both disease and pest. No cure.

Anyway, my not-so-nice neighbors on the other side have many of these trees, all in various states of decline, including some planted right along the fence line between our houses. They are not interested in removing them, even if we pay. The nursery person implied that the damage to the lemon tree was from the same source. I was skeptical because I thought thrips were not very promiscuous and you really needed a different bug to go after citrus, roses, etc.

So....we trimmed away all the damage on the lemon tree (just about everything....), whitewashed the skeleton, sprayed twice with permethrin, fed, and deep watered.

Slowly the tree put out new growth that looked "normal", although pretty yellow for my taste. Here it is today:

It is now flowering a little but really frightfully yellow. I've tried gingerly feeding it, but there is something else going on. Look at a new growth cluster:

And a close-up of one of those leaves:

A lot of the newer growth has this appearance, with puckering around very yellow areas on the leaves.

I am really at a loss. There is a kaffir lime about 5 feet away that seems fine.

Any ideas?

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I would say you have two distinct problems. The thrips may be affecting your fruits; there are ways to control them or limit the damage, as they normally infect the plant at or soon after the bloom. The problem with your leaves certainly looks to me to be mineral deficiency, most likely manganese and iron, this would be more likely given your location, and aggravated should you have soil that is above 7.5 pH. Addition of chelated minerals either through soil application or foliar can cure this. You may also have a general nutrient deficiency, particularly Nitrogen. You should be feeding your tree a good quality citrus fertilizer with a ratio at or near 3-1-2 NPK three times per year... maybe January, May, and September. Meyers are very heavy feeders, and a good part of your problem could be that your tree has finally exhausted all the nutrients in the soil. The fact that your kaffir seems fine is probably only because the kaffir is sooo resistant and tolerant of lots of imperfections.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 4:18PM
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definitely needs some fert.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 6:48PM
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