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Specific replant disease

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Specific replant disease

Specific Replant Disease is also known as ‘Sick Soil Syndrome’. This malady manifests itself when susceptible plants such as apples, pears, plums, cherries and roses are placed into soil previously occupied by a related species. The exact causes are not known, but in the first year the new plants will grow poorly. Root systems are weak and may become blackened, and plants may fail to establish properly.

One theory is that replant disease is due to a whole menagerie of orchard was planted with dwarf or standard trees. Standards have more vigorous - therefore larger - roots, and are thus likely to take longer to degrade.

It is good organic rotation practice not to follow ‘like with like’ and this rule applies to long lived trees as much as annual vegetables. In the case of temperate fruit trees, the 'Pomes and Stones' rule for rotation should be observed- don’t follow a ‘pome’ fruit (with an apple-type core—apples, pears, medlar, quince) with a tree from the same group. A ‘stone’ fruit (i.e., with a plum-type stone, such as plum, cherry, peach, apricot, almond) should be all right, and vice versa. However, rotation is not always easy in a well planned old orchard when the site it occupies may well be the best available, and starting another orchard elsewhere may not be practical. In this case, and replanting is unavoidable, a large hole should be dug out, and the soil removed and replaced with ‘clean’ soil from a site where susceptible plants have not been grown.

Using trees on vigorous rootstocks which will have a better chance of competing with the pathogens, or plants grown in large containers with a large root ball may also have a better chance of resisting replant disease. The extra time to cropping may be offset if new trees are planted a few years in advance of old trees finally falling over, furthermore, if the old orchard was grubbed - i.e. trees were healthy when removed, it is unlikely that replant disease would be a problem as pathogen levels may never have been high. The malady is worse where trees have died in situ—pathogens are likely to have contributed to the death and therefore be at a higher level in the soil.

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