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Searcy, Ark. – Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease that, under the right conditions,
can cause severe early defoliation and crop loss on nearly all peach and nectarine
cultivars. Because of weather factors and good grower management practices in most
years, however, the disease often causes little or no significant damage or loss.
For this reason, the destructive potential of leaf curl is frequently underestimated
to the point where important control measures may be forgotten or delayed.
Symptoms: As the name of the disease implies, the most common and striking symptom of leaf
curl occurs on the foliage. Infected leaves are severely deformed and often display
a variety of colors ranging from light green and yellow to shades of red and purple.
As these infected leaves mature, naked asci containing ascospores of the pathogen
are produced on the surface giving them a dusty appearance, after which the leaves
turn brown, shrivel, and drop from the tree. Many infected fruits drop early and go
unnoticed; those that remain may become crooked at the stem end like a small yellow
squash, while others develop reddish to purple, wart-like deformities on the fruit
Disease Cycle: The pathogen occurs commonly almost wherever peaches are grown, and overwinters as
blastospores in protected crevices in the bark and around the buds. Primary infections
are the most damaging and occur during the early spring from bud swell, when the bud
scales loosen, until the first young leaves are fully emerged from the bud. Infections
on young peach leaves occur at temperatures of 50 to 70 F (10-21 C). Little infection
occurs below 45 F (7 C). The incidence of infection is greatest when rains wash the
overwintered spores into the bud and cool temperatures lengthen the time that the
emerging leaves are exposed to the pathogen, before they are fully expanded and can
resist penetration by the fungus. When temperatures following bud swell are warm and
early leaf development is rapid, infections rarely become established, even when spring
Monitoring: Treatments for leaf curl are not effective after infections occur or after symptoms
appear. Monitoring during bloom is done largely for the purpose of assessing the effectiveness
of the control program and planning for next season. Monitor young leaves on sample
trees for early foliar symptoms and record the incidence of leaf curl on sample trees.
Management: In most areas of the eastern U.S., leaf curl can be controlled with one
well-timed fungicide application, either in the autumn after 90% of the leaves have
fallen, or in the spring before bud swell. Lime Sulfur is labeled for a dormant application
if you can find it. Ziram is labeled for commercial growers to be used as a dormant
application as well.
All cultivars are susceptible to leaf curl to some degree. If leaf curl is severe,
it is important to maintain tree vigor by thinning more fruit than normal, reducing
drought stress with irrigation, and applying extra nitrogen fertilizer. It is already
too late this season to spray for Peach leaf curl. Infected leaves should be handpicked
and destroyed to help limit buildup of inoculum.
The University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal
access/affirmative action institution. For more information you can contact your
local county extension service, you can also follow Sherri Sanders on Facebook @UAEX.WhiteCountyAgriculture
By Sherri Sanders County Extension Agent - AgricultureThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Sherri Sanders County Extension Agent - AgricultureU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service2400 Old Searcy Landing Rd. Searcy, AR 72143 (501) 268-5394 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.