Management of Almond Leaf Scorch Disease: Long-Term Data on Yield, Tree Vitality, and Disease Progress
Almond leaf scorch disease (ALSO) has been a chronic problem for California almond growers. This disease is caused by the bacterial pathogen Xylella fastidiosa and is transmitted by xylem-feeding insects. Previous research suggested that retaining, rather than roguing, ALSD-affected trees may be more economically beneficial because ALSD-affected trees produced a reasonable yield and did not die over a 3-year period. Because almond orchards are kept in production for approximately 25 years, longer-term data are needed to fully evaluate the merits of retaining ALSD-affected trees. Extension of yield evaluations from 3 to 5 years demonstrated that yield loss due to ALSD was consistent over 5 years, with yields of ALSD-affected trees reduced by 20 and 40% compared with unaffected trees for 'Nonpareil' and 'Sonora', respectively. To assess risk of ALSD-affected trees serving as a source of inocula for secondary (tree-to-tree) spread and to evaluate vitality of ALSD-affected trees, previous surveys of two orchards were extended from 3 to 6 or 7 years. The relationship between disease incidence (percentage of trees infected) and survey year was linear for all cultivars examined at both orchards. Furthermore, at each orchard, the spatial location of infections detected after the first survey was random with respect to the spatial location of infections identified during the first survey, suggesting that ALSD-affected trees retained in orchards did not serve as a source for secondary spread. Over the 6- to 7-year study period, death of ALSD-affected trees was rare, with only 9% of ALSD-affected trees dying. Because orchards used in this study had relatively high disease incidence, 61 orchards containing Sonora were surveyed to determine typical levels of ALSD incidence. ALSD was widespread, with at least one infected tree in 56% of orchards surveyed, but incidence was typically low (mean incidence = 0.47%). Collectively, the results suggest that retaining ALSD-affected trees may be economically beneficial in older orchards.