2010 Florida Citrus Pest Management Guide: Brown Rot of Fruit

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Management of brown rot, caused by Phytophthora nicotianae or P. palmivora, is needed on both processing and fresh market fruit. While the disease can affect all citrus types, it is usually most severe on Hamlin and other early maturing sweet orange cultivars.

Phytophthora brown rot is a localized problem usually associated with restricted air and/or water drainage. It commonly appears from mid-August through October following periods of extended high rainfall. It can be confused with fruit drop due to other causes at that time of the year. If caused by P. nicotianae, brown rot is limited to the lower third of the canopy because the fungus is splashed onto fruit from the soil. P. palmivora produces airborne sporangia and can affect fruit throughout the canopy.

Early-season inoculum production and spread of Phytophthora spp. are minimized with key modifications in cultural practices. Skirting of the trees reduces the opportunity for soil-borne inoculum to contact fruit in the canopy. The edge of the herbicide strip should be maintained just inside of the dripline of the tree to minimize the exposure of bare soil to direct impact by rain. This will limit rain splash of soil onto the lower canopy. Blocks with overhead irrigation should be converted to undertree microsprinklers to avoid the promotion and spread of inoculum in the canopy. Boom application of herbicides and other operations dislodge low-hanging fruit. Fruit on the ground becomes infected and produces inoculum of P. palmivora that can result in brown rot infection in the canopy as early as July while fruit are still green. The beginning stages of the epidemic are very difficult to detect before the fruit are colored and showing typical symptoms. Application of residual herbicides earlier in the summer may reduce the need for post-emergence materials later and minimize fruit drop throughout this early stage of inoculum production from fallen fruit.

Authors: 
J.H. Graham
Authors: 
L.W. Timmer
Publisher: 
University of Florida IFAS Extension
Year: 
2010