Spring 2014 - Back to the Future - Predictions Sure to Go Wrong

By Jake Kubisiak
ISA Certified Arborist

What can we expect for the 2014 season?  The stronger starting rotation should ease the burden on the bullpen.  Still need a first baseman and lead-off hitter……  Oh sorry this is the Wachtel TREE Science article.  What predictions can be made regarding this year’s tree and landscape issues?  What insect, disease or other issues are more likely to affect your trees this year?  Are there ways to avoid issues?

The best indicator of future events is past behavior.  Although this might not help when it comes to the natural world there are a few items to consider when trying to predict a future event.

  • Weather – What is the recent history?
  • Trends – Have certain insects or disease becoming more common issues?
  • Genetics - Is your tree of a susceptible variety?
  • Pre-disposed?
    • How healthy has the individual tree been over the last year or several years?
    • Are there over-riding issues to consider?

Weather Factors

Drought, wet and cool, cold and snowy – there may be no good way to predict the weather.  The ‘harsh’ winter will likely not affect the populations of insects or disease issues.  Disease pathogens and insects have ways of surviving till spring.  Trees and shrubs can protect themselves from winter’s worst days.  However, one physical effect already happening is the browning of many yews and Dwarf Alberta spruce.  These plants tend to be more susceptible to winter desiccation.  I predict most will recover during spring as the buds are likely viable.  Ways to reduce this effect include; extra water for sensitive evergreens and organic mulch to protect the soil.  Fertilizers help improve root health while applying anti-desiccants will help reduce moisture loss.  Another winter issue is heavy snow or ice breaking limbs.  To help avoid this damage an inspection by your certified arborist can identify trees or limbs in need of pruning or extra support systems and predict which ones might cause you an issue.


Several issues have become far too common recently and are likely to continue to affect trees:

  • Tar Spot - This leaf disease seems likely here to stay.  Applications of fungicide to the spring leaves can help reduce this now widespread issue .
  • Emerald Ash Borer – This insect was officially found in many new areas of southeastern Wisconsin during 2013.  The spread of this insect is sure to increase.  Treatments do work, but considering new trees to replace is always an option.
  • Drought – Many lingering issues continue to bother trees from the drought of 2012.  Birch trees showed heavy stress later in summer – I suspect most trees were hurting, but hid the symptoms.  Fertilization, compost teas, mulching, and watering will help with recovery.
  • Evergreen needle diseases – With hard to pronounce names like Diploidia and Rhizosphaera; these diseases are even more difficult to control.  Multiple years of treatment are needed.


Nurseries continue to develop plants with better characteristics for our landscapes.  Although not a perfect process, many new plants can be used to avoid common issues.  One example is the disease apple scab.  Many new crabapple trees are far less susceptible than the older options.  However, if spring turns out to have consistent moisture and cooler temperatures infections can still occur.  Treatments can work wonders to turn a struggling crabapple back into your favorite part of spring.


Trees damaged by girdling roots, improper pruning, construction damage, poor growing conditions or severe drought all have increased susceptibility to damaging agents.  This layering of stresses can lead to premature tree loss, often referred to as the ‘decline spiral’.  Our job is to ascertain which issues are present and predict what might happen.  Our entire team works to provide options and treatments to help for protect your landscape and increase the chances of  a winning season.

The surest prediction for 2014; a phone call to your Wachtel Tree Science Wisconsin Certified Arborist gives your trees and shrubs the best chances for a winning season.

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