Gooseberry dieback problems discussed at East Malling

The problem of gooseberry dieback resists simple diagnosis and treatment, ADAS researcher Erika Wedgwood told last month's soft fruit conference at East Malling Research.

"We haven't yet found anything we are totally confident of," she said of the ongoing Horticultural Development Company (HDC)-funded project into the problem, which can manifest itself in buds failing to break on individual branches, through to death of the whole bush.

Many candidate fungi were found in the 14 diseased bushes from six sites analysed in the project so far, she said, though Botrytis and Phomopsis were not among them. However, growers should avoid planting in areas where Phytophthora and Verticillium may be present in the soil, she added. "Pythium could also be a problem."

Good cultural practices can minimise spread, Wedgwood suggested, but warned: "Pathogens may get into cracks where the bush has been tied."

Reducing pruning and ensuring blades are sterilised would also help, she said, and urged growers to check planting stock for root death and rotting below pruning marks before planting.

With information on the problem generally thin on the ground, she also asked gooseberry growers to submit a report form to ADAS, saying: "It's useful to hear from those who haven't got a problem - what are they doing right?"

HDC communications manager Scott Raffle said the final results of the project will be available next spring, and admitted: "Gooseberries haven't taken off over the last 20 years and until this project the HDC hasn't funded research over that time."


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