Blueberry fungus problems can destroy your fruit and leave your plants marred. Proper care is only half the battle. To prevent cosmetic damage as well as significant crop loss, familiarize yourself with fungal pathogens, what to look for and effective control methods that will keep your plants vigorous and infection free.
Vigorous blueberry plants are much more likely to resist or fight off fungus than weakened plants. For healthy plants through proper care, grow blueberries in locations that offer full sunlight for best fruit production. Blueberry plants thrive in moist, well-drained acidic soil high in organic content. Ideal soil pH level is 4 to 4.5, according to the Ohio State University Extension.
One type of infection that attacks blueberry plants is stem blight, caused by the fungus Botryosphaeria dothidea, according to the North Carolina State University Plant Pathology Extension. This fungus is spread sporadically on wind and rain where it lands on plants, enters vascular blueberry plant tissue and germinates. Mummy berry is another type of disease caused by the fungus Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi that is also spread sporadically and enters through shoots, primarily on plants in extremely wet sites, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
Blueberry plants infected with stem blight experience wilting and discoloration of leaves from green to a red or brown as well as plant death. Affected plants are easily recognized after death by brown leaves that remain on the plant instead of dropping, according to the North Carolina State University Plant Pathology Extension. Mummy berry fungal disease of blueberry plants results in blighted shoots and occasionally blighted blossoms during spring, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. These symptoms are followed by the malformation of ripening berries. Berries change to a tan or pink hue, shrivel and usually drop from the branch. As the name suggests, the berries resemble mummies.
Planting resistant blueberry varieties raises your home landscape's potential for avoiding fungus problems, though the plants are not immune. For varieties resistant to stem blight, plant Murphy or Cape Fear, according to the North Carolina State University Plant Pathology Extension. For resistance to mummy berry fungus problems, plant resistant varieties Bluecrop or Duke, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
For control of stem blight, avoid creating wounds on your blueberry plants as these openings offer entrance to fungal pathogens. Since there is no effective chemical control method for this fungus, avoid sandy and heavy soils and prune and destroy affected plant parts, according to the North Carolina State University Plant Pathology Extension. For mummy berry, apply the effective organic fungicide with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis strain QST 713. For a chemical option, apply a fungicide with the active ingredient fenbuconazole, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. For both problems, sanitize pruning tools between cuts and from one blueberry bush to the next to inhibit the transfer of fungi.
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