Spring 2013-Root-Rot

Fall 2010 Newsletter in Adobe PDF format

By:Jake Kubisiak-Certified Arborist IL-1392A

Shhh…..can you hear it?  Put your ear to the ground and listen a little closer.  It’s the cries of help coming from your plants having sustained damage from last season’s drought.  Now listen again.  Could it be a party happening at the same time?  It’s; the raucous sound coming from decay pathogens enjoying the buffet of dead roots.  Many fungal organisms lay dormant in the soil until conditions are favorable.  With the possibility of a wet spring, root rot issues will only be exacerbated.

Some common factors that create a life threatening situation for your landscape plant include:

- A previously weak plant (drought stressed)

- Poor drainage

- A basal injury

- Poor quality or compacted soil

Let’s hope this season allows us to forget about last year!  Most plants can and will recover.  Unfortunately the true effects on the landscape are still hidden for several months or even years.  One difficulty of diagnosing these issues is a lack of signs and symptoms.  Trees ‘hide’ serious symptoms by generating enough small absorbing roots to give a ‘normal’ appearance.


Some of the signs of decline include:

- Reduced leaf size

                - Shorter twig elongation

                 - Presence of mushrooms

                 - Dieback of the new season’s growth in parts or all of the plant

When a plant is under attack, these issues will appear during the first heat of summer.  The loss of roots causes the loss of energy storage and a reduced ability to overcome other stresses including damage from insects or other pathogens.  This leads to decline or possible death.  Over time this can also lead to destabilization of a tree and a potential risk of failure. 

Now that we are in the midst of this predicament what can be done to help reduce the impact? 

Proper watering will be beneficial if seasonal precipitation proves to be inadequate.  Your arborist may also consider the following treatments:

- Specialized fungicide applications to slow pathogens

- Introduction of loose organic materials to improve soil aeration

- Several options to physically loosen and aerate the soil

- Compost tea treatments to re-establish soil micro-biology

Many trees will move on from the drought of 2012.  However, for the trees with specific needs allow us to help them overcome these issues.  Turn out the lights on that root pathogen party, and bring a return of the soothing sights and sounds of a healthy landscape.

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