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WSU offers help removing diseased cherry trees

by JOEL MARTIN
Staff Writer | March 23, 2024 12:39 PM

PULLMAN — Orcharders with infected fruit trees may qualify for help with the cost of removing them, according to an announcement from the Washington State University Extension.

Through September 2024 cost share funds are available for the removal and testing of trees infected with X-disease and little cherry disease to slow the spread of these devastating pathogens, according to the announcement. 

Eligible cherry, peach, nectarine, plum and other stone fruit orchards must have suffered a tree loss due to confirmed X-disease phytoplasma or Little cherry virus, according to the announcement. Reimbursement levels are up to 75% cost share for up to twenty acres (up to $20,000 per applicant). Funding is limited to a total of $225,000 disbursed over three years with no disbursements once funds are expended or past the grant final date. 

Growers are eligible if:

• Eligible cherry, peach, plum, nectarine or other stone fruit orchards have suffered a tree loss due to confirmed X-disease phytoplasma or Little cherry virus.

• The affected orchard is within 10 miles of other orchards owned by another legal entity.

• Greater than 20 trees were removed (do not have to be continuous, may be scattered).

• Costs were incurred after Sept. 30, 2021, the date the grant started.

Free testing is available, according to the announcement. Up to 10 free LCV2+XDP tests per orchard entity are available in 2024 for the first 30 farms who apply, or until funds are expended. Up to 15 free LCV2+XDP tests per nursery entity are available in 2024 through the WSU Pullman Lab in cooperation with WSDA evaluation of mother trees.

X-disease and little cherry disease cause small, pale, bland, unmarketable fruit in cherries, the announcement said. In peaches, plums, and nectarines X-disease symptoms are typically yellowed curled leaves and shot holes as well as small, deformed fruit. These are long-term, debilitating diseases for infected trees. Infected trees must be removed to stop the spread of the pathogen. There is no cure. The economic impacts of tree removal are long-lasting to growers during the seven-year re-establishment period costing growers an average of $118,095 in establishment and lost revenue per acre. X-disease phytoplasma and little cherry virus 2 are spread by grafting and insect vectors. Leafhoppers disperse and forage over a wide area with a spread observed for 5-10 miles from infected orchards. It is critical to remove infected trees to stop the spread to neighboring blocks.

Trees must be removed and applications must be submitted by Sept. 15, 2024. Applications must be finalized before the Sept. 29, 2024, end of the grant. 

Applications are available at https://bit.ly/43BLW5m. More information is available by calling Tianna DuPont, WSU Extension, at 509-713-5346.

Joel Martin may be reached at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.