Peaches are becoming a viable alternative crop for Florida growers. However, as with any crop, concerns about disease are looming over the up-and-coming industry. Tripti Vashisth, an assistant professor of horticulture sciences at the Citrus Research and Education Center, recently released findings from her peach research during the 2016 season. She completed this research with Mercy Olmstead, a University of Florida (UF) assistant professor.
A disease that stood out to Vashisth was bacterial spot disease. Bacterial spot is mostly indicated by yellow leaves and brown lesions on the leaves and fruit. According to Vashisth, nutrient stresses can make the disease worse. Bacterial spot can be limited with copper-based sprays, but recently released varieties coming out of UF are already resistant to the disease.
Vashisth says that peach leaf rust is a big issue for Florida peaches as well. Due to Florida’s hot, humid and rainy summers, peaches are much more susceptible to the rust. The disease can cause leaf defoliation, early bloom and early budbreak late in the fall. Depending on the severity of the disease, these symptoms may also negatively affect the cropping potential for the following season, which may cause the orchard to face economic losses.
According to Vashisth, one of the biggest issues of Florida peach production is weather conditions. “The last two years, we have been getting warm weather, and that is a big problem,” she says. Peaches need the cool weather for their chill hours, which can be rare in Florida’s unpredictable climate.
Vashisth will be studying strategies to combat Florida weather issues in her 2017 research.
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