Fruit tree diseases: Everything you need to know

You’re in luck if you’re looking to grow delicious fruit in your garden, but you’re worried about diseases ruining your pickings. Even though growing fruit can be a rewarding experience, it’s important to be aware of the possible fruit tree diseases that can arise throughout the year. 

Keep reading for our easy-to-follow and practical advice on how to prevent and control these unwanted diseases.

Growing without fruit tree diseases

Nothing tastes better than freshly homegrown fruit. Freshly picked peaches, strawberries and apples from the garden have a more vibrant flavour than even the freshest store-bought fruit.

But there are some common fruit tree diseases that can be found in your fruit garden plants. Before we get started on how to get rid of ‌these diseases, we need to know what we’re looking for. 

Fruit garden disease 101

There are several types of plant and fruit tree diseases that can affect your fruit gardens in South Africa, such as powdery mildew, brown rot and peach leaf curl. 

And as any doctor knows, different types of diseases need different treatments. Cue the plant doctor, Efekto, helping you find the ideal treatment and prevention for these common plant diseases. 

Here’s your guide on fruit tree diseases that attack your homegrown fruit.

Peach leaf curl

Noticed leaves distorting and premature leaf fall on your peach, nectarine and apricot plants? That’s peach leaf curl, also known as peach scab!  The leaves that remain will develop a white powder on them. This powder is the velvety spores of the fungus, ready to spread when water splashes on them.

And while peach leaf curl is serious, there are ways to protect your trees from it.

To combat it, remove the affected parts of the tree. Destroy the fallen leaves to prevent the disease from spreading and don’t put the infected leaves on your compost heap. 

Leaf curl disease spores lurk in bark crevices and around leaf buds during winter, waiting to infect newly emerging foliage in late winter and early spring. Apply Efekto Virikop to prevent any further damage.


Grapevines are susceptible to a disease called black spot, also known as anthracnose. This disease typically shows up after rainfall in the spring and infects the young leaves and stems of the grapevine, potentially causing significant loss if left unchecked. Additionally, damage to canes during pruning can create further issues.

In the early stages of the growing season, black spot produces characteristic symptoms on leaves and shoots. Leaves and shoots may have several infected spots, with the more severely affected leaves displaying a greater number of leaf spots. As the small lesions expand with the leaf, the centre eventually falls out, leaving a ‘shot hole’ appearance. Infected leaves can also take on a distorted appearance.

On shoots, infection is seen as small circular lesions with white to grey centres and a defined dark brown to black margin. Older lesions develop callused edges and the centre becomes sunken, which can occasionally be as deep as the middle of the shoot. 

Spores are produced after spring rainfall events and can be splashed onto young, growing leaves, where infection occurs. Foliage needs to be wet for a significant period of time (more than two hours) for infection to spread. Within 4–13 days of infection, new spores are produced, depending on the ‌air temperature. If warm and dry conditions occur in the early spring after infection, the growth of the disease is slowed due to its dependence on water for infection and spread.

To control this fungal disease, spray your vines with Efekto Virikop


In moist environments, this fungal disease thrives and develops mostly on leaves and stems. Similar to septic spots, the fungus appears as patches or pustules.

Rust doesn’t usually kill plants, but can severely limit their growth and production of food for your family. 

Spray your fruit trees with Efekto Virikop to control this fungal disease.

You may also be interested in: Plant diseases 101: pest identification, solutions, and prevention

Brown rot 

There are various fruit trees that are susceptible to this disease, including peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, apples, pears, apricots and citrus trees.

Brown rot covers the stems, flowers and fruit. It gets worse, eventually mummifying the fruit – you’ll spot the fuzzy tan or grey spores.

Spray your fruit trees with Efekto Virikop to control this fungal disease.

Powdery mildew 

This disease affects many types of plants, including fruit trees and vines. It can be easily recognised by the white-to-grey powdery growth that forms on leaves, flowers and shoots. 

Powdery mildew can be particularly serious on woody plants like grapevines, cranberries and fruit trees, where it attacks new growth, causing it to become dwarfed and distorted. Infected fruits develop web-like scars, while tree fruits develop a rough, corky spot on the skin. 

The best way to control powdery mildew is through prevention. Use Efekto Kumulus WG for best results.

You may also be interested in: Powdery mildew treatment and other tricks for plant mildew.

Bacterial Spot

Bacterial spot is a disease that affects peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums. The symptoms include fruit spots, leaf spots and twig cankers.

Fruit infected by bacterial spot can exhibit pitting, cracking, gumming and water-soaked tissue. Infected fruit is also more susceptible to other fruit diseases such as brown rot, as well as infestations by insects. Severe infections of leaf spots can lead to early defoliation, which results in reduced fruit size, sunburn and cracking of fruit. Additionally, early defoliated trees can be less vigorous and more prone to winter damage.

Wet conditions that cause water congestion in plant tissue can favour the multiplication of bacterial spot in leaves. Rains, dew, and high humidity assist bacterial entry into plants and multiplication. 

To control this fungal disease, spray your fruit trees with Efekto Virikop.


Also known as Verrucosis, scab is a fungal disease that causes raised roughened warty lesions to form on the outside of the fruit. While the inside of the fruit remains unaffected, the disease gradually reduces the vigour of the tree. Damp, cool weather encourages the spread of disease spores. It’s best to adopt a preventative approach to control by using a regular spray programme. Additionally, during hot and dry weather, it’s helpful to water deeply and regularly around the root zone to help your apples and pears resist the disease. Trees suffering from water stress are more susceptible to scab. 

To control this fungal disease, spray your fruit trees with Efekto Virikop or Efekto Kumulus WG.

Bacterial Blight

Bacterial blight of grapevine can be readily transmitted with pruning tools and enters healthy tissues mainly through pruning wounds. Bacterial transmission is most significant during wet and windy weather. It survives in the vascular tissues of infected plants and can lead to a serious reduction in grapevine health and major harvest losses. The disease is associated with warm, moist conditions, and its spread is favoured by overhead sprinkler irrigation. Bacterial blight is able to survive in the wood and may be transmitted from plant to plant in infected cuttings. It may also be carried in irrigation water.

To control this fungal disease, spray your vine with Efekto Virikop

Our 3 top tips from the experts

  • Prevent fruit tree diseases by pruning your trees to allow sun and air through the branches, as the disease spreads easily in dark, damp environments. After pruning your roses, grapevines, shrubs and fruit trees, apply Efekto Steriseal, a fungicidal pruning wound paste to protect them from infection.
  • Practice good hygiene by regularly cleaning tools and equipment to prevent the spread of disease. 
  • Ensure your fruit trees are well-watered and fertilised to promote healthy growth.

Fruit trees in your South African garden can be fun and rewarding, but you need to be careful about potential fruit tree diseases. Follow the prevention and control procedures to keep these diseases at bay. Using the tips outlined in this post and using Efekto’s products, you can enjoy a disease-free garden and a bountiful harvest. Remember, prevention is key, so be proactive in taking care of your fruit trees and keep them healthy and happy!