Drought Damage

By: Anthony Arnoldi, Certified Arborist

Winter 2003 Newsletter in Adobe PDF format It may seem strange to talk about, but the time we have spent in dry conditions has added up over the past 9-10 months. This trend has actually been going on longer than that and has been bad enough to lower the water level in Lake Michigan! Trees have been inpacted by this as well and we’ll discuss how they react to drought and what can be done to help them.

This dryness may be temporarily alleviated by spring rains. Spring rainy spells have accounted for several successive years of increased fungal leaf diseases like apple scab (see article in this newsletter). However, these rainy spells did not do much in terms of adding many inches of rain in the rain gauge. So, we still suffer the long trend of drought.

Last summer, spruce trees, in particular, began to exhibit problems from this drought. Their needles began to dry and fall off or become easily dislodged. Bare branch tips began to show in ever-increasing numbers. Later in the year some trees began to shed entire tips of last season’s growth. That effect has spread to more trees over the winter. Fungal disease and occasional squirrel tip-cutting always account for some tips, but this is noticeably different.

When foliage symptoms such as this arise, it is because fine feeder roots have been killed from drying. Spruce are the first trees to show symptoms and it can be assumed that all trees are in the process of losing some feeder roots as well. Spruces can be viewed as the “canary in the mine.” They are shallow rooted and sensitive to this stress and damage. If spring and summer begin to add to the water deficit, I fear stronger reactions from spruce and most likely other trees will also begin to show damage effects.

Watering will be needed for all trees as soon as the ground thaws, especially those with shallow root systems. The late winter snow pack we accumulated melted off when the ground was still frozen, so we didn’t benefit much from it. For those who can’t water or find it difficult or inconvenient to do so, Wachtel is offering watering service to its array of treatment options. This will be especially helpful to those who have a well, have trees spread all over a larger property, have watering restrictions imposed during the season, or find it hard to water consistently.

Mulching, fertilizing, root biostimulation and mycorrhizal root inoculation may also be helpful in rebuilding fine roots and vigor on damaged trees. Call your Wachtel Certified Arborist for an assessment of your spruce and other trees so that serious problems can be avoided.

© Copyright 2003 – Wachtel Tree Science & Service, Inc.

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