Maintaining chestnut tree health is critical despite lack of yield

Orchard care should remain a priority, even when winter damage limits the crop.

Symptoms of potato leafhopper feeding damage on chestnut.
Symptoms of potato leafhopper feeding damage on chestnut.

Growers need to maintain chestnut orchards that will fail to yield a substantial nut crop this 2015 season due to winter injury and frost damage over the last two years. Tree health and vigor greatly impact winter survivability and nut production. Insecticide applications, water management and nutrient management are required annually to properly maintain orchard health. To read more about nutrient and water management, visit the Crop Management section of Michigan State University Chestnuts.

Insect pests like potato leafhoppers reduce the photosynthetic capacity of a tree, which decreases the reservoir of photosynthates stored in the roots. A deficit of photosynthates can lead to higher levels of winter mortality and affect the quantity and quality of next year’s nut crop.

At this point in the season, many growers are facing high levels of potato leafhopper damage. Like many plants, chestnuts are sensitive to the saliva of potato leafhoppers, which is injected by the insect while feeding. Damage to leaf tissue can cause reduced photosynthesis, which can impact production and quality and damage the tree. Most injury occurs on new tissue on shoot terminals with potato leafhoppers feeding near the edges of leaves using piercing-sucking mouthparts. Symptoms of feeding appear as whitish dots arranged in triangular shapes near the edges. Heavily damaged leaves are cupped with necrotic and chlorotic edges and eventually fall off from the tree. Severely infested shoots produce small, bunched leaves with reduced photosynthetic capacity.

To read more about potato leafhopper management and its biology, check out the Michigan State University Extension article, "Michigan chestnut scouting report for July 10, 2015.” You can find that report and all chestnut updates at the MSU Chestnuts website.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2013-41534-21068.

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