What Causes Dead Wood in Almond Trees?

Written by hannah wahlig
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What Causes Dead Wood in Almond Trees?
Almond trees bear a bounty of almond fruits, or drupes. (Maria Teijeiro/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Almond trees are delicate, stout additions to a landscape, and their bounty of almond fruit are welcome at farmers' markets or breakfast tables. Almond trees are susceptible to a number of diseases, and many of these ailments manifest as dead wood along the tree's trunk or branches. Identifying the cause of your almond tree's dead wood is the first step in applying the appropriate remedy.

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Mallet Wound Cankers

The traditional means of harvesting almond in orchards is to strike the limbs of the tree with mallets in order to shake the almonds free. Occasionally, the mallets leave wounds on the exterior of the tree, and invasive cankers then take a hold around the injured area of the tree. Cankers are festering, open wounds that provide entry points for fungi and bacteria to enter the tree and break down or destroy the wood. The most common almond fungi is Ceratocystis fimbriata, a parasite that proliferates the cankers and breaks down the wood. Once cankers are established, they are difficult to repair; the best way to manage cankers is to opt for mechanical shakers for harvesting and avoid creating mallet wounds.

Hull Rot Disease

Hull rot disease is one of the biggest threats to almond trees. Hull rot disease is often caused by a fungus like Rhizopus stolonifer or Monilinia fructicola. The first sign that an almond tree is infected with the disease occurs on the almond fruit itself; the hulls of the almonds become marred with brown or black coloured lesions. Over time, the invasive fungus begins to break down the leaves and foliage of the tree, and once the disease has taken hold, entire branches and sections of wood begin to die and break away. The usual treatment of hull rot disease is to reduce the frequently and amount of watering to make the almond tree a less desirable location for the fungi to grow.

Silver Leaf

Though silver leaf is more commonly found on pome fruit trees or stone fruit trees, the disease also affects some varieties of almond trees. Despite its name, silver leaf most aggressively attacks the wood of the almond tree. The silver leaf fungus enters the almond tree through a wound caused either by mallet harvests or pruning. The first sign of the infection is that the leaves begin to grey and curl, but the real damage occurs in the branches and the wood of the trunk of the almond tree. Bark or wood appears to be dark, mushy brown, and the disease may kill off branches or whole trees if left untreated. Reducing pruning to limit wounds and removing infected branches is the most effective way to control silver leaf in almond trees.

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