GRAND JUNCTION — A silent killer steadily encroaching on the most beloved of Western Slope fruit has moved into the crosshairs of peach growers and researchers.
It’s a fungus so widespread that every orchard in the valley is infected, it’s estimated to cost the local peach industry about $6 million a year and there’s no silver bullet to eradicate it.
But the good news is that researchers with Colorado State University have found promising results and have discovered a potential way to manage this devastating fungus, called cytospora. Though it has become an epidemic in western Colorado orchards, managing it could be as simple as painting trees with a special mixture to protect them and avoid spreading the infection.
This hard-to-pronounce fungus causes a disease called cytospora canker, which leaves behind a distinct calling card in orchards. The fungus spreads through spores and enters trees through wounds or cracks in the bark. Once established, it girdles trees from the inside, causing telltale dead branches and eventually killing the entire tree.
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