Recent weather patterns have resulted in dry conditions in many areas of Kentucky. However, water is an essential component to plant mass and is vital to growth, carbohydrate production, and nutrient transport. During periods of below-average rainfall or when rain distribution is uneven, plant health may decline (Figure 1).
Drought conditions or inadequate water results in plant stress. Symptoms of drought stress include wilting, leaf scorch (Figure 2), leaf drop, root loss, and dieback. Stressed plants are also more susceptible to diseases, insects, and winter injury. In situations where plants are yet to establish or drought conditions are prolonged, plant death may result. There are also several diseases that cause symptoms similar to those resulting from drought-related stresses.
For more information on drought stress and related disease problems, including symptoms, causes, and prevention, review the publication How Dry Seasons Affect Woody Plants (ID-89).
By Kimberly Leonberger, Extension Associate, and Nicole Ward Gauthier, Extension Plant Pathologist