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Thanks to Betty Fields for this great question! Every October, her Brown Turkey fig loses its leaves. They shrivel, turn brown, and then fall off the plant. Last year, she cut it back to 12” from the ground and it did grow back to a lush 8' tall. Then the leaves scorched and dropped off again.
This is fig rust, a fungal disease that, unfortunately, will likely return and must be managed. With all fungal diseases, you should definitely remove the affected plant material from the ground and keep the area very clean. Rake up the damaged leaves and put them in the trash.
Rust is most easily controlled with a neutral copper spray, like copper hydroxide or copper sulfate. One or two applications made in May or early June usually keeps these trees in fairly good condition until after the fruit ripens.
In very wet seasons, one or two additional applications may be necessary. A good index for spraying is when the first leaves on the tree have reached their full size, treat preventatively at that time, if you've had a problem with fungal rust in the past. The second spray should then follow in three to four weeks after that. And in excessively wet seasons, apply again three to four weeks later. It is extremely important to get good leaf coverage with this spray material.
Copper sprays are fatal to bees, one of Betty's concerns, so do be judicious in spraying it, or consider removing the plants entirely and starting with a totally different shrub.