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Leaf Curl – Breeding Resistant Peaches and Nectarines

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What is leaf curl?

Basically, leaf curl is a fungus and the exact name is this: Taphrina deformans. The damage is almost described in the name. The leaves turn pale green, white and pink, and are strongly deformed. This can usually be seen on the shoot tips of a branch. Depending on the severity of the infestation, this can greatly weaken the tree, as it destroys the area of assimilation that it desperately needs at that time of the year in order to produce enough energy. Usually, infested trees do not need to be dug up. The fungus infects only up to a temperature of about 15-16°C, that is, only in the spring during budding. After this, the tree will look healthy in the summer as soon as all of the affected leaves have fallen off.

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Picture: A peach tree infested with leaf curl

What can I do about leaf curl?

The easiest way to avoid this fungus is, of course, to plant a resistant or tolerant variety, which I will discuss later on. However, if you already own a tree that unfortunately has no resistance, there are also ways to fight the disease. The most effective method, with great certainty, is by applying copper. This is a biological plant protection measure that can also be used in the home garden. With the treatment, however, it is important to take note of the timing in order to succeed. The copper must be applied 1-3 times during the point when the buds swell, i.e. just before the flowers open, as the fungus infects the leaves directly at the time of budding. However, if the timing is right, the chances of having a healthy tree are very good.

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Picture: Healthy peach trees with no leaf curl

Breeding peaches and nectarines at Lubera® that are resistant to leaf curl

As you can see – or know – the leaf curl disease plays a big role in peaches and nectarines, especially in the home garden. However, to ensure that you do not lose the pleasure of having peach and nectarine trees because you do not want to defend yourself with copper remedies, we at Lubera® are again tinkering with the idea of breeding and selecting new varieties that are resistant to leaf curl. A few years ago, crossed plants from resistant varieties and varieties with a good fruit quality and flavour were used for this selection. Because what good is a resistant peach if it does not taste good?

In the first step, we completed a selection process during this year’s flowering period. However, this was not for resistance, but for showy flowers and scents. These can be very interesting and certainly of high ornamental value. Of course, it is also a nice side effect, with a good variety.

The second step is taking place at this time. Now that the leaf curl disease shows itself in all its glory, it is currently the best time again to go through the rows and to select. Of course, attention is paid mainly to the infestation with leaf curl, but also to the general health of the trees, for example checking for Pseudomonas infections. The selected plants are observed during the growing season and further tested with regard to their resistance and health.

The third step is the tasting and evaluation of the fruits, the selected plants. Because, as already mentioned, no one needs a resistant peach tree that is not flavourful, does not bear fruit or has fruits that are too small. If one or more plants survive this procedure, they will be propagated and tested over the next few years until they are finally available for you in the Lubera® garden shop.

 

 

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