How to Keep Fruit & Nut Trees Free of Pests and Diseases

Nectarines on a Tree

Just like you, a tree’s best defense against disease and pests is to stay strong and healthy in the first place. You’ve surely noticed you’re more likely to catch a cold or worse when you’re stressed or run down. Fruit trees also stay healthy when they start healthy. So pest and disease control starts with the basics:Just like you, a tree’s best defense against disease and pests is to stay strong and healthy in the first place. You’ve surely noticed you’re more likely to catch a cold or worse when you’re stressed or run down. Fruit trees also stay healthy when they start healthy. So pest and disease control starts with the basics:

  1. Choose the right rootstock to begin with. Tips for Selecting Fruit & Nut Trees.
  2. Get your trees started off right with the right soil preparation and planting. Soil for Fruit & Nut Trees and Planting Fruit & Nut Trees.
  3. Irrigate and fertilize effectively. Watering Fruit & Nut Trees and Nutrition for Fruit & Nut Trees.
  4. Prune properly. Pruning Fruit & Nut Trees.
  5. Maintain a happy orchard, free of weeds and havens for pests.

Why?

  • Trees growing in fertile, well-drained and consistently moist soil have greater resistance to pests than trees that are stressed or weakened by too much or too little water.
  • Trees that get too much fertilizer – nitrogen – are more susceptible to disease (and they produce less fruit).
  • Weeds compete for soil moisture and nutrients, and give a home to pests.
  • Pruning improves air circulation and sunlight penetration, and an open, airy tree will dry more quickly following dew or rain, which minimizes the spread of disease.

Seek help locally.

Ask your local retail fruit tree nursery and Cooperative Extension office for advice about what to look for. If you observe damage and are not familiar with the symptoms, take a leaf, twig or fruit sample sealed in a plastic bag to your local experts for diagnosis and recommended action.

  • Insecticidal soaps, applied correctly, can be effective against aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites, psyllids, scale crawlers, thrips and whiteflies.
  • Dormant oil sprays can be essential for the control of many overwintering pests, such as scale, mites and aphids.
  • Dormant sprays with copper or other pesticides may also be necessary to control such diseases as peach leaf curl and shot hole fungus.

Chemical treatments should be used only when absolutely necessary, as the wrong treatment or timing can do more harm than good.