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In this video from Advancing Eco Agriculture it is claimed that apple scab is totally arginine-dependent for energy, and historically sprays for apple scab suppressed arginine production. In some trees prone to apple scab, their cobalt levels are lower in sap than those relatively resistant to scab. They treated affected trees with cobalt (sulphate I presume) to try and speed up the metabolism of arginine to other peptides and proteins to deprive the fungus of an arginine source curing the scab.

This article talks about herbal leys to improve apple production. A herbal ley is a leafy green ground cover including amongst others Apiaceae, yarrow, chamomile, borage, clover, chicory, cornflower, clover, lupin and comfrey.

Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale) is a well known biodynamic accumulator that many have recommended growing in the garden (confined so that it doesn't take over the garden) for using its leaves to add nutrients to the compost pile.

comfrey’s thick and tuberous roots create an expansive root system, allowing the plant to “mine” compacted soils for minerals and other nutrients which are often difficult for other plants to obtain. It is this ability to help cycle nutrients through the soil that has given comfrey its designation as a dynamic accumulator plant.

I wonder whether therefore it's worthwhile to try growing comfrey alone under my apple tree to see if it can bring up cobalt to help the tree fight the scab. I'm hoping a ground cover might also stop the spores from being blown back up into the canopy.

comfrey

http://permaculturenews.org/2010/10/01/the-wonderful-multi-purpose-comfrey-plant

  • Deep tap roots are not for 'nutrients' or 'chemicals' or even water. They are meant for support. All nutrients and water are pretty much in the top 4 to 6 inches of topsoil. Most roots (something like 97%) are in the top 4 to 6 inches all over the world. Any deeper they are for support or trying to get at a water table. (rare). The best and truly the only way to deal with this fungus is CLEANING UP. Get diseased apple tree parts away from your apple trees. Dormant oils are critical. Prevent spores present in the soil below the canopy from splashing up to infect your trees. – stormy Jan 22 '17 at 0:22
  • @stormy my error, I've fixed it. – Graham Chiu Jan 22 '17 at 0:30
  • What did you fix, sweetie? There are so many details... – stormy Jan 22 '17 at 0:40
  • @stormy removed the comment about tap roots – Graham Chiu Jan 22 '17 at 0:54
  • I've never tried it, never seen studies on it. I wonder if anyone at Biology SE would know more? – J. Musser Feb 15 '17 at 17:24
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Good hygiene is your best cure: clear fallen fruit, leaves and pruning and incinerate (composting them just means you'll end up ultimately spreading the spores around your garden when you spread the compost).

You are correct in stating that comfrey is an accumulator, however, it is accumulating nutrients into its own tissues. These would need to be released from those tissues to be any use to other plants (i.e. composted or made into "tea"). They do tend to break-up compacted soil which may have some direct beneficial effects.

However, comfrey is a vigorous plant producing a great deal of new leafy growth each year. This requires lots of water and lots of nitrate. This will lead to competition if you underplant the apple with it. The large amount of leaves will also tend to increase humidity locally, creating better conditions for fungal growth. Finally, the hairy leaves trap dirt and a dense canopy mean that it is going to make it difficult to clean-up effectively underneath the apple. I would not recommend under-planting with it.

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