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Field Maintenance Guidelines

For Mature Rubber Area

4. Leaf Diseases

4.1 Introduction

Leaf diseases in rubber are more localized and seasonal in their

occurrence and control measures are often required only when
extensive damage occurs. However, it is recommended that
plantations should exercise preventive applications of recommended
fungicides especially during wintering and re-foliation period to ensure
healthy leaf formations and tree growth.

The increased use of modern high-yielding clones have somehow

resulted in the planting of some clones which are highly prone to
fungal diseases, particularly Oidium heveae secondary leaf fall,
Colletotrichum gloeosporiodes secondary leaf fall, Phytophthora
palmivora leaf fall and pod rot, Dreschlera heveae (Bird's Eye Spot)
and Guignardia heveae leaf disease. Brief descriptions and possible
control measures of each of the common diseases is outlined below:

4.2 Oidium heveae

Oidium heveae is a powdery mildew fungus. It belongs to a group of

plant pathogens which include many obligate parasites (which occurs
only on living hosts) causing several diseases of economic
importance. The name powdery mildew refers to the large number of
spores produced on the surfaces of the host, appearing to the naked
eye as a white, powdery coating. The Oidium which occurs on rubber
is Oidium heveae; its other host is the common weed Euphorbia hirta
which carried an Oidium indistinguishable from that on Hevea.

Powdery mildews occur mainly on the surfaces of the green parts of

the plants, especially the leaves. They form an extensive radiating mat
over the surface of the hosts, but penetrate to only a limited depth.
Although powdery mildews have a world-wide distribution, they are
most common in temperate climates, in the tropics they rarely produce
resistant spores and their usual method of propagation is by short-
lived 'summer' spores.

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Infected shades may be found, by careful scrutiny, at almost any time

of the year except in the wet weather. The leaves are covered with
white fungal colonies but are relatively unharmed, except for slight
yellowing, and will not fall as the result of the infection. The fungus
feeds by piercing the cuticle of the leaf at numerous places as it grows
over the surface; it favors the lower epidermis, especially near the
veins. Some seven to ten days after the infection, chains of spores
are produced on short stalks. Spores production occurs continuously.
The spores are abundant but short live and are blown by the wind to
colonize other susceptible sites.

When the leaf becomes too old or weather conditions are unsuitable,
the infection dries up, leaving tell-tale yellow patches on the leaf
surface which are clearly seen when the leaf is examined against the
light. Oidium is potentially much more damaging when it causes
secondary leaf falls after wintering.


The main sign of an attack is the presence on the ground of numerous

immature leaflets, but by the time this is noticed the causal fungus is
well entrenched. Unfolding leaflets up to 5cm long are shriveled and
blackened progressively from the leaf tip and fall, leaving the leaf-
stalks for a while still attached to the tree. If the tree is shaken the
young leaves will fall. Older leaflets, past the bronze or green bronze
stage turning pale green with a harder cuticle, do not fall if attacked,
but after the fungus has dried up patches provide a clear distinction
between Oidium infected leaves and those attacked by
Colletotrichum, the other fungal agent of secondary leaf fall; the latter
disease causes discrete raised circular spots with well- defined
margins, in contrast to the ill- defined and much larger patches which
mark the sites of former Oidium attacks.

The shining white filamentous colonies of Oidium are clearly visible on

the freshly fallen leaves, and since Oidium leaf fall is frequently
associated with outbreaks of the yellow tea mite (Hermitarsonemus
Latus), careful examination may also reveal the mites and eggs on the
under surfaces of the leaves. The severity of an attack of Oidium
secondary leaf fall depends on the clones, the weather and the
uniformity of wintering and the speed of re-foliation.

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Effect of Weather

The severity of the secondary leaf fall from year to year is associated
with annual fluctuations in the rainfalls after wintering; it depends on
the number of days as well as the total rainfall and the stage of
wintering and subsequent re-foliation at which rain falls. Oidium
develops most rapidly during relatively cloudy weathers with damp
night, with showers (if they occur) being light and of short duration.
Spore dispersal is retarded when canopy is wet.

Weather exerts an indirect influence on secondary leaf fall through its

effect on wintering and re-foliation. If a dry wintering period is followed
by a wet re-foliation period the cycle proceeds rapidly, and no Oidium
is likely. If the cycle is prolonged or uneven because of unsuitable
weather, danger of infection exists because it will take longer time for
young leaves to harden.


For the direct control of the disease with protective fungicides, five to
six weekly dusting rounds with sulphur throughout the refoliation
season has been a standard practice where the disease is habitually
the most severe. A recent improvement to this protective dusting
schedule stems from a forecasting technique based on the
temperature and relative humidity rule, which indicates when dusting
should begin. Using this to time the dusting program, only three
weekly rounds of dusting are required to achieve satisfactorily control.

Tridermorph (Calixin) has been shown also to be excellent anti-

sporulent when used at low concentration (0.02 -0.04%). In the field
application, tridemorph at 0.5 kg./ha when formulated in a mineral non
phototoxic spray oil. (e.g. Shell Malaysia), and applied using a thermal
fogger such as Tifa or Leco fogging machines, gave good control of
Oidium secondary leaf fall.

The other method of ameliorating the severe effects of Oidium SLF is

by judicious and appropriately timed manuring. Thus, an extra dose of
nitrogenous fertilizer applied at the first sign of re-foliation immediately
after wintering can promote rapid and abundant refoliation and affords
yet another simple means of disease escape.

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4.3 Colletotrichum gloeosporioides

Colletotrichum gloeosporioides is primarily a leaf infecting fungus as

far as Hevea is concerned, but it can attack any green part of the tree,
including the pods, and is also the cause of die back of green shoots.

In most severe form, Colletotrichum leaf disease cause secondary fall

in the early part of the re-foliating season, when weather is relatively
dry, Oidium hevea is the most likely cause, but in the wetter weather
usually in May and June. Colletotrichum becomes dominant, and can
cause extensive defoliation of most susceptible clones. Colletotrichum
leaf disease can be found throughout the year and exists particularly
in areas where rainfall is evenly distributed.

Shoot dieback is invariably associated with, and usually a result of the

leaf disease. Green shoot is susceptible to infection by other fungi
leading to extensive dieback and consequent loss of canopy. The
fungus is also the cause of ' anthracnose'.


Leaves are only susceptible to attack over a period about five days
while the buds are bursting and during the first ten days of leaf
expansion. By the time the leaflet is fully expanded and turned from
bronze to pale green, the cuticle is formed and the leaf has developed
measure of resistance. If attacked during the early part of this fifteen-
day period the leaves rapidly wither and fall, but if infected at a later
stage the internal resistance of the host usually prevents extensive
damage and, though partly deformed and extensively spotted, the
leaves do not readily fall. The severity of Colletotrichum secondary
leaf fall may be attributed to infections on young leaves of the same
clone and age. The fungus builds up rapidly and reaches epidemic
proportions within few days.

The early symptoms of disease on young leaves are similar whether

the cause is Drechslera, Oidium or Colletotrichum, but can be
distinguished in Collectotrichum by the fact that the leaves especially
the older one, carry fungal spores visible as tiny pink cheesy masses
all over the surface of leaf. The spore masses are particularly
prominent in wet weather, when they are easily visible to the naked

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On nearly mature leaves only the leaf margin, particularly at the tip, is
shriveled, but the leaf is covered with small spots having a narrow
brown margin surrounded by a yellow halo, approximately a millimeter
or more in width. As the leaf mature the spots become more
prominent and looks like a small cone the chief diagnostic feature of
the disease.

In wet weather Colletotrichum may spread from the leaves to the

green shoots. If this happens to a young budding and the fungus
extends down the succulent shoot to the bud patch, the scion is
destroyed. Repeated attacks of the fungus on the leaves and shoots
of older trees of the susceptible clone will lead to branch dieback,
often necessitating corrective pruning.

Predisposing Factor

Weather plays an all important- part in the development of

Colletotrichum disease, damp conditions favor infection to take place.
In wet weather the spore masses produced on leaves and twigs are
softened and easily released, and are readily conveyed to neighboring
trees by rain splash or currents of moist air.

The rapidly-spreading epidemic phase of Colletotrichum is propagated

by the pink asexual spores or conidia; occasionally, particularly on old
decaying leaves, the sexual fruiting stage of fungus may be found. Its
significance is at present unknown, but it is unlikely to play major role
in the development of the disease since the conidial spores are so
generally produce and so numerous.


For young rubber in nurseries as well as in the field, satisfactorily

control of Colletotrichum leaf disease has been achieved with
fungicide such as Daconil applied in water with a knapsack sprayer or
mist blower. Ground fogging using Tifa and Leco machines to fog
captafol in oil, has also been successful. This overcomes the problem
of great heights and wash-offs encountered in early conventional
methods. The most practical long term approach to reduce the over-all
severity of this disease would nevertheless be to plant resistant
clones, employing the most suitable clones for each type of
environment within a given planting district.

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4.4 Dreschlera heveae (Bird's Eye Spot)

Bird's eye spot is a leaf disease, so called because of the

resemblance of the spots, with their white centers and brown margins,
to the eye of the bird. It mainly attack nursery seedlings, budded
plants are much susceptible. The disease rarely kills the plants but
defoliates and weakens them, retarding their development. A delay of
a month or so in reaching a suitable size for brown budding is of little
consequence, but the effects of severe attack of bird's eye spot on
seedlings being grown for green budding is more serious. Not only
they take longer to reach buddable size, with their photosynthetic
capability reduced by defoliation and leaf spotting budding success
are lower and the shock of cutting back the stocks after green budding
may kill them.

Exhibit 9: Bird’s Eye Spot or Leaf Spot

on a Rubber Leaf.

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The typical spots which give the disease its name circular, 1-3 mm in
diameter, with a transparent centre and distinct narrow brown margin
results from infections which takes place when the leaves reach their
full size but are still hanging limply. Different symptoms if the infection
occurs before and after this stage. On young leaves discrete lesions
are not formed for the leaf margin or even its entire surfaced becomes
blackened and shriveled, as it does when infected by Colletotrichum
at a similar stage. On older leaves where the cuticle has hardened
and the leaf is horizontal or nearly so, the lesions remain small,
appearing only as dark brown specks. Quite often all three symptoms
shriveling of the tip, typical bird's eye and brown specks appear on the
same leaflets, indicating that suffered repeated attacks its


The disease produces relatively large, dark brown, elongated spores,

about 0.1mm long and just visible under hand lens. During the period
of heavy sporing ( a few weeks after the infection starts) they may be
visible to the naked eye as a glistening chocolate- brown mass
occupying the clear central area of the lesions on the under surface of
the leaf. The spores are readily carried by winds. Rain dew, strong
wind and frequent passage of workers through closely planted
nurseries all help in freeing the spores from the lesions and spread to
neighboring plants. Once the disease appeared in the nursery, it
spread rapidly irrespective of weather conditions, so that scarcely a
plant escapes infection.

The disease is most severe on less fertilized, freely-drained inland

soils. Although it can also occur on well fertilized nursery, it
undoubtedly does less damage where conditions are suitable for
vigorous growth.


The disease was remarkably sensitive to copper and wide range of

other fungicides. This can be attributed to the resistant nature of the
spore and the rapidity with which its germ tube penetrates the leaf, in
addition, at their most susceptible stage, the young leaves are difficult
to wet with a fungicide. However, bird's eye spots can be effectively
controlled with carbonate fungicides containing zinc (zineb) or
manganese (maneb), but not so well with those containing iron
(ferbam). Of the carbamate fungicides tested and currently available,
the most suitable are Zineb, Thiram and Dithane M-45.

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Although infections can be prevented it cannot be cured. To be

effective therefore, fungicides must be used protectively and should
be applied at weekly intervals. Reducing the frequency of spraying but
adding a sticking and/ or wetting agent to improve application and
retention has failed to give control to the disease, probably because of
the rapid leaf expansion and the large area of susceptible new leaf
which develops between one spraying and the next. Treatment should
be confined to the susceptible immature leaves which can be sprayed
thoroughly with the use of knapsack sprayers.

Recently an improved method of fungicide control using portable

thermal fogging machines such as Swingfog or the Fulsfog has been
worked out. This ensures a wider and more rapid coverage than the
conventional spraying. Dithane M-45 at 5.0% (a.i.) formulated in a
mineral non- phytotoxic spray oil (Shell, Malaysia) and fogged at
weekly intervals has been found to give control of bird's eye spot.

4.5 Phytophthora palmivora (Leaf Fall and Pod Rot )

Phytophthora is a genus with a world-wide distribution attacking

conifers and great range of lower plants of many families, causing a
variety of diseases, damping off of seedling, root rots, collar rots, trunk
cankers, leaf and fruit rots.

The most destructive tropical species of Phytophthora is Phytophthora

palmivora which attacks more than seventy species including
pineapple, pepper, various palms, cotton, citrus, cashew nuts, water
melon, tomato, tobacco, avocado, beans, breadfruits, jack fruits,
mango, guava, orchids and other ornamentals. It has been recorded
also to be attacking on rubber, cacao, papaya, durian and orchids.
Other Phytophthora species recorded cause root rot of cinchona, wilt
and leaf blight of tomato and potato, fruit and collar rot of papaya and
root rot of tomato.

All species of the genus Phytophthora require a wet environment for

their best development and for production of sporangia, which release
motile zoospores. Other spore forms are oospores and
chlamydorspores. During infection stage of the pathogen it is
dispersed by sporangia. Both oospores and chlamydospores
germinate readily in water, and are thought to play an important part in
the survival of the fungus in soil. Phytophthora palmivora can attack
all the above- ground parts of the rubber tree- leaves and fruits, twigs,
branches, the stem and tapping panel.

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Infected leaves easily shed off while still attached to the leaf stalks.
Leaves have dark brown or black lesions with a white spot of
coagulated latex in the middle. The commonest site of the lesions is at
the base of the petioles, but it could also be found in the leaf blade or
midrib. Leaves mostly fall while they are still green and apparently
healthy, but they may change to yellowish red on the tree. Further,
when leaves are brought down by wind, a drop of coagulated latex
can be seen on the broken petiole.

Infected pods, unlike the leaves, remain on the branch but blackened
in color, deformed and the seed inside are shriveled and rotten.
Normally, only green pods are susceptible to attack by Phytophthora,
but the attack can occur at any stage pods development.

Predisposing Factors

Wet weather is the immediate cause of any outbreak. Experience

elsewhere has shown that outbreaks of Phytophthora leaf can be
expected to occur after at least four days of continuously favorable
conditions - cool, wet weather with constant high humidity and little or
no sunlight. For the infections to sustain themselves, these conditions
must be present since warm and bright weather could reverse the
progress of the disease.


More recently, a quicker and more economical method applying

copper fungicide has been worked out, by thermal fogging with
ground operating machine such as Tifa fogging machine. To avoid the
problem of latex contamination by copper, a copper free fungicide,
such as Difolatan at 20% (a.i.) suspended in Shell or Esso spray oil,
has been found to be suitable alternative

4.6 Guignardia heveae

Guignardia heveae is a leaf disease caused by the fungus Guignardia

heveae, is the most recent addition to the list of the disease affecting
rubber. The most common and severely affected clones were PB 260
and PB 235.

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Soon after infections, rusty brown spots with yellow halos develop.
The spots then coalesce giving the leaf an appearance of yellowing.
Prior to defoliation, the leaves turn to yellow bronze sometimes with
bronzing tips margin. Defoliated leaves resemble that of leaf fall
during wintering period.


A prolonged dry weather appears to trigger off the disease.

Observations to date show that plants normally recover after an
attack. However, the refoliated flushes although generally quite clean,
usually carry smaller leaves attributed to reduced photosynthesis and
depletion of nutrient reserves in the young trees.

An extra dose of fertilizer is recommended to improve tree vigour.

Chemical treatment is unnecessary unless to prevent further spread.
Either Benlate or Dithane M-45 at 0.5% may be used as a spray, to be
carried out once every four days for a period to eight weeks

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Insert Table 7

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