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Fig Rust- A Grin and Bare It Disease

Ken Rudisill
Horticulture Extension Faculty
Bay County Extension

Fig trees are popular in the home landscape because of their delicious fruit and ornamental value. They are easy to grow and have few problems. But one of the problems we find in the Florida Panhandle is fig rust.

Fig rust Photo Credits: UG Website

Fig rust is a fungus disease that attacks young leaves. At first the fungus appears as small, yellow to yellow-green spots on the leaves that enlarge and produce a brownish tinge as they spread over most of the leaf. On the undersides of leaves are small blisters or pustules. Over time, the leaf will yellow then turn a rusty brown at the leaf margin, curl up, and then the plant will defoliate.

Rainy weather will cause the disease to be worse.

Spraying fig trees for rust is a problem in Florida. Currently there are no EPA approved fungicides that can be sprayed on edible figs in Florida. Since there are no chemical solutions, sanitation measures are used. Collect the fallen infected leaves and remove them from the area. They will harbor the disease and if left on the ground they will infect new leaves. Pruning the tree will increase air movement inside the foliage. When watering the tree, be sure to avoid getting the leaves wet, this favors infection.

Fig rust usually does not kill a fig tree. To help keep the tree healthy, mulch the tree with a 4 to 6 inch layer of leaves, pine needles or compost. Spread the mulch beneath the tree starting from 4 to 6 inches out from the trunk. Spread the mulch just about 1 to 2 feet past the drip line of the branches.

Figs can also be fertilized with small amounts of fertilizer monthly starting around March and ending at the first of September.

Source: The Fig, factsheet HS 27, T.E. Crocker, professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611, Revised May, 2003.

Fig Rust Fungus hits leaves early this year, Jacksonville, July,2009, Raymond Zerba, UF/IFAS-Clay County Horticulture Faculty