Lemon tree dropping fruit

Lemon Tree Dropping Fruit; Causes, Fixes and PreventionLemon Tree Dropping Fruit; Causes, Fixes and Prevention

When your lemon tree starts dropping fruit, your first reaction is to panic. That’s understandable because premature lemon drop means that all your hard work in growing the lemon tree has been aborted. That can be very frustrating for anyone.

Sometimes though, lemon tree dropping fruit is a natural occurrence. This is because lemon trees produce way more lemons than the tree can handle. Producing more fruit than necessary is an evolutionary advantage. The higher the fruit the lemon tree produces, the higher the fruit’s chances of reaching maturation and later on propagation.

The lemon tree can not support all the fruit that it producers. As a result, it is normal for a lemon tree to go through three fruit drop phases. 

When is lemon tree fruit dropping normal?

When is lemon tree fruit dropping normal

A lemon tree will naturally undergo three self-pruning periods to ensure that only the fittest and highest quality fruit remains on the tree. 

A natural lemon drop is a self-thinning mechanism that allows the lemon tree to reduce the trees bearing potential to what that tree can hold.

The three regular fruit drop periods are;

1. The 1st drop: 70% to 80% of lemon tree blossom dropping

The first self-pruning in fruit drop is that drop of unpollinated flowers. Lemon fruits come from lemon flowers. 

The first drop is of the 70% to 80% drop in and pollinated flowers. This drop occurs towards the end of the blooming season. 

And pollinated flowers do not yield fruit. It’s a waste of energy and nutrients for lemon trees to keep them on the plant even though they are useless. 

2. The 2nd drop: Pea-size lemon tree fruit dropping

Ping ball size baby lemons falling off a tree

The second fruit drop often occurs a week or so after the first fruit drop. At this stage, the lemon tree aborts the lemon that it cannot hold even though the fruit was from pollinated flowers.

The second foot drop’s principal purpose is to ensure only the lemons’ number that the lemon tree can support remain on the tree. It is a survival for the fittest, and only the fittest lemon will survive and remain attached to the tree.

3. The 3rd drop: Ping-pong ball size lemon tree fruit dropping

Towards fruit maturation, a lemon tree will undergo another self-pruning phase to eliminate any lemon fruits that aren’t fit for propagation. 

This stage at which a lemon tree will drop any diseased or damaged lemon foods

You can tell that the lemon fruit drop you are experiencing is not expected when you lose more fruit than specified above. 

Lemon tree fruit dropping causes and control

What causes premature lemon tree fruit dropping

Premature fruit drop can be caused by an array of factors. However, the most common causes of premature fruit drop in lemon trees are;

1. Environmental stresses

Environmental factors like sudden temperature fluctuations and heavy rains can result in premature fruit drop.

Lemons are susceptible to fruits, and even the slightest temperature change can have diverse effects on lemon trees.

Heat stress is one of the significant causes of lemon fruit drop. Lemon trees produce fruit with the sole purpose of propagation. If environmental factors change and become adverse, lemon trees will respond by dropping fruit because, in adverse conditions, the chances of the lemon tree reaching maturity have reduced.

2. Lack of nutrients in the soil

Lemon trees and naturally massive feeder plants. The requirement for food and nutrition increases when the Lemon Tree is flowering and fruiting. If a lemon tree doesn’t have enough nutrition, it will enter into a starvation-induced panic mode.

When a lemon tree is stressed, one of the significant ways to respond to the stress is to drop leaves, blossoms, and fruit. Regardless of the pressure causing stress, dropping plant parts is the plant’s primary response to stress.

3. Overwatering and underwatering

Overwatering a lemon tree can cause a chain reaction of cascading effects. While it is true that lemon trees are thirsty trees and like water, it is also true that too much water, especially in the root region, can cause root rot.

When the roots are damaged by root rot, the roots’ ability to absorb nutrients is reduced. This means that the plant shoots have reduced access to nutrients even though there may be nutrients in the soil. 

As shown above, lemon trees respond to reduced nutrition by dropping body parts, namely, leaves, flowers, and fruits. 

Underwatering means that the tree has little or no access to water. Water is life, and lemon trees require water during fruit formation for healthy food growth. If there aren’t enough water reserves in the soil, the lemon tree could respond the same way it knows by dropping fruit. 

4. Pest and disease attacks

Pests and disease attacks can cause lemon fruit dropping

Pests like whiteflies, aphids, scales, and mites are notorious for causing severe damage to the plant. Still, they can result in fruit and even cause blemishes on fruit. 

Fungal diseases botrytis and Alternaria navel-end rot can also cause fruit drop. 

Prevention of premature fruit dropping

It is impossible to reattach a dropped fruit on the tree, and is expected to continue to grow. While it is impossible to redeem fruit that has dropped, there are some best practices that you can carry out to prevent future fruit dropping.

1. For fruit drop due to environmental stresses 

The best way a farmer can prevent lemon fruit drop is by protecting the lemon tree from adverse environmental conditions. The conditions include temperature fluctuation by insulating the lemon tree in winter and using sunscreen to protect the lemon from sunburn in summer.

It’s always better to work with nature than working against nature. Since you cannot stop it from raining, you should skip watering after heavy rainfall. If you go ahead to water even after it has rained, you risk overwatering the lemon tree. 

Another preventive measure against heavy rain is to improve the drainage of the soil in which lemon is growing. This means that there will be no standing water in the lemon tree’s root zone even after heavy rainfall.

2. For fruit drop due to lack of nutrients in the soil.

You need to fertilize the soil with a nitrogen-rich slow-release fertilizer. You can also use organic compost in case you have any around your farm.

3. For fruit drop due to over and underwatering

Gauging the amount of water is required can be a tough one even for experienced farmers. A new farmer must invest in a moisture meter to accurately read the moisture amount in the soil and, therefore, decide whether or not to water.

4. For fruit drop due to pests and diseases

Spraying pesticide to control pests

Lemon fruit pests can be prevented and controlled using;

  • Insecticidal soap washes
  • Horticultural sprays
  • Neem seed oil
  • Diluted rubbing ethanol. 

If none of the natural ways work, please go ahead and use a pesticide.

Baby lemons are turning yellow and falling off.

It is a normal process known as post-bloom fruit drop when baby lemons fall off the lemon tree. The self-thinning mechanism reduces the number of fruit to the tree’s bearing potential. 

However, because the baby lemons are turning yellow before the drop, it could be a case of premature ripening.

Baby lemons are turning black and falling off.

What to do when baby lemons are turning black and falling off

Alternaria fruit rot is the culprit that causes baby and new lemons to turn black and fall off the tree. This fungal disease is also known as black rot.

Black rot is caused by the fungal pathogen Alternaria alternata. Alternaria fungus develops on the fruit and leaves’ dead tissue during wet conditions and is a wind-borne infection.

What causes premature fruit drop?

Premature fruit drop is often caused by adverse environmental conditions, such as late frosts, excessive heat or cold, and abrupt humidity changes. It can also be due to soil-related challenges resulting from irregular watering and improper nutrition. 

How do you control fruit drop in the citrus?

You can control the fruit drop in citrus by addressing the root cause of the drop. The primary causes are environmental stresses, lack of nutrition, watering irregularities, pests, and diseases. 

You can control fruit drop by;

  • Controlling adverse conditions by moving the plant in during winter and summer
  • Fertilizing regularly
  • Watering just enough and on time
  • Controlling pests and disease

Final thoughts

When lemon fruit drops, it can be heartbreaking for the farmer because it means fewer lemon fruits at harvest time. However, you needn’t despair because using the tips above, you will be able to prevent future fruit drop. 

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