Peach trees that mysteriously die or decline are usually affected with short life disease (PTSL). This disease bears some unusual symptoms, which should enable growers to identify its presence. Short life disease can sometimes be managed but may result in the death of the peach tree.
Peach tree short life disease predominantly affects trees that are three to seven years old. While there's no type of tree that's immune to PTSL, gardeners can plant trees that are less susceptible. The Southeastern Fruit & Tree Nut Research Laboratory recommends that gardeners avoid trees grown on Nemaguard rootstock, since they're highly susceptible. Trees grown on Guardian or Lovell rootstock perform better.
Some gardeners don't notice anything until their peach tree collapses and dies in the spring time, but signs are there beforehand. Affected trees will have a foul-smelling sap and the trunk bark may appear wet or leaky. As the disease progresses, limbs can develop dark patches and their bark may crack.
Gardeners can take some steps to control PTSL. Pruning in the late fall or winter can encourage the development of this disease and leave the tree susceptible to frost damage, so plan to prune in early spring instead. Always plant good trees from trusted nurseries to cut down on the likelihood of this disease.
According to Clemson University, winter pruning, poor caretaking, ring nematodes, bacterial canker organisms and fluctuating winter temperatures all play a hand in causing PTSL disease. While gardeners cannot control weather, they can treat for nematodes and follow good tree management practices.
Peach tree short life disease predominantly affects trees located in the southeastern United States, including in Georgia and South Carolina. The disease is less widespread in other locations.