Fruit trees add color and interest to your yard in addition to providing a large supply of fresh fruit each summer. Unfortunately, an array of problems affects fruit trees, from pest damage and disease to nutritional and cultural problems. According to the North Carolina State University Extension, most fruit trees experience at least some problems with pests or disease, which reduces yield. These problems often show signs on the foliage of the trees, so inspecting the leaves provides valuable clues that can help lead you to an accurate diagnosis and, ultimately, a solution.
Correctly diagnosing the problem is the most important first step toward treating your tree, according to Iowa State University Extension. The extension recommends inspecting foliage for symptoms that could help lead you to a diagnosis. Look for holes or ragged edges, brown edges, abnormal coloration, spots or bumps, deformation and leaf loss. Also look out for insects that may be present on the leaves.
If you have access to the rest of the tree, inspect it for damage. Even if the primary symptoms occur in the leaves, you may find clues to help you reach a diagnosis on the rest of the tree. Inspect the trunk and branches, and what you can see of the roots and any flowers or fruit that are present. Keep a lookout for insects or physical damage to the tree, such as from lawn mowers or weed whackers.
When identifying the problem with your fruit tree, make sure you know its type, as some species are more susceptible to certain pests or diseases than others. Once you have the tree identified and the symptoms described, learn common problems with that type of tree. In some cases, a precise diagnosis will require you to submit samples to a laboratory.
The problems that afflict fruit trees are myriad and have many different sources. In general, fungal diseases are the most common plant diseases. Fruit trees are also susceptible to rusts, mildews and rots. Bacterial diseases, such as fire blight, threaten several types of fruit trees. Insects can also harm fruit trees, with scale insects the most common, according to the North Carolina State University Extension. Finally, poor growing conditions, such as nutrient deficiencies, also produce symptoms on the leaves, as does transplant shock and weather-related stress.
Once you've made a diagnosis, you can investigate the best treatment options for the particular problem affecting your tree. Preventative measures also help protect your fruit tree. The North Carolina State University Extension recommends regular fungicide and insecticide sprayings to protect fruit trees from problems. Maintaining good cultural practices, keeping trees well-watered and fertilized and removing grass, weeds and overripe fruit helps minimize reliance on pesticides.