Contributor : Chicu Lokgariwar
Spring. It is here. Time for buds to unfurl themselves, for bees to emerge hungrily from their homes, and for the farmer to dust off the household can of ‘Meta’. There’s something very wrong with this picture here.
All around the Chatola-Sitla area (and beyond), farmers are getting ready to spray their peach trees with what is called ‘Meta’. This is done to prevent leaf curl, which all the peach trees in the area are plagued by. Sadly, spraying is not only ineffective but also counterproductive. The spring spraying is also possibly the worst thing we can do for our orchards.
Know thy enemy: The first thing to know about the infestation of leaf curl is that it’s not. An infestation, that is. It is a fungal disease. We first see it when the leaves turn red and
unsightly. That is when it is too late to do anything about it. Germination of the spores happens in autumn, which is when we need to act. These spores are released when the cell walls of the infected leaves rupture and they then settle on the surfaces of the tree.
Here is more (a lot more) about peach curl: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7426.html
Managing curl: This is a two-step process. First, we need to stop the spores from spreading, and then we need to control any that have already spread.
To stop them from spreading, ideally we would pluck off diseased leaves and burn them. This is the best option because we destroy the spores while they are still contained within the leaves. Given the scale of the problem, though, it is near-impossible to do it at the orchard level. At the least we need to rake up and burn (not compost!) any fallen peach leaves. This is an important step for controlling the spread.
Secondly, we need to spray. A copper-based fungicide is the only effective measure against peach curl. Spraying is done as soon as the leaves fall, before the new leaf buds set. Several copper-based fungicides are available on the market (for us, the closest I’ve found is Kaladhungi Chauraha, Haldwani). While not entirely safe for wildlife (especially earthworms), copper fungicides are less toxic than insecticides. Even better, since it’s toxicity levels are low enough for the treatment to qualify as ‘organic’, is Bordeaux mixture.
Here’s how to make it: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7481.html .
Incidentally, for those of you who are frustrated by black spot on your Old Roses, that too is a fungus, and these measures work well for that too.
Know thy other enemy: This comes disguised as our old friend ‘Meta’. Officially known as ‘Metasystox’, the preparation is an insecticide and a miticide. In other words, it is absolutely ineffective against peach curl. It is effective against aphids, but it inflicts so much collateral damage that I would not use it at all.
Because Metasystox is toxic.
It is toxic to humans and needs to be handled with extreme care, which almost no one practices here. Here is more about it: http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/insect-mite/mevinphos-propargite/oxydemeton-methyl/insect-prof-oxydem-methyl.html
Further, Metasystox is harmful to pollinators. The ‘quick knockdown effects’ that they have mentioned in the article? We see it every year in the form of dead bees. While this is terrible from a biodiversity point of view, it is also bad orchard management. Pollinators, as we all know, are indispensable allies to enable fruit-set. A mass-scale killing of bees and other pollinators, while poisoning ourselves, during flowering seasons, is so misguided that it is tragic. Please don’t.
About Chicu Lokgariwar
Chicu has been working on sustainable resource management, especially water, since 2000. Uncity Chicu presently lives in Chatola with her husband, dog and ever-increasing flock of chickens. Chicu writes about water for the India Water Portal and blogs about the gardening life.