Disease Claiming Trees At State’s Largest Peach Orchard
The state’s top peach farmer may soon be out of business.
Joe Mitcham of Mitcham Farms, just outside Ruston, says he’s battling a soil disease that’s killing his trees.
“We’re down to about 20 percent of my trees — probably 2,000-2,200 in that range,” said Mitcham. “But the trees we have this year are in really good production.”
"I can’t meet the demand so I’m importing peaches from Alabama and Mississippi."
Mitcham says it’s the trees that spread the disease because it runs from the root system, and eventually healthy trees start to look like dead ones right next to it. He says because of the Armillaria mella fungus, he’s losing about 10 percent of his trees every year.
“I can’t meet the demand, so I’m importing peaches from Alabama and Mississippi,” said Mitcham.
Mitcham says the federal government banned a pesticide that was used to treat the diseased soil, and eventually his entire farm will be completely gone. Mitcham says there’s a company looking at a disease-resistant root stock.
“But they have to study this root stock several years before they can release it,” said Mitcham.