Winter 2012 - It is never just one thing

arborist newsletter

Winter 2012 - It Is Never Just One Thing
by Bill Reichenbach, Certified Arborist WI-0188A
Rarely does any one factor determine the final
outcome, from a single event in life or in
nature. It is just too complicated; so many
factors come into play over the course of time
that determine the final outcome. This is certainly true
with trees and tree health. Trees in developed landscapes
and in the forest are continually subjected to various
stress factors that, depending upon
circumstances, can lead to decline
and eventual death of a tree.
Tree stress may result from a natural causal agent or may be from
human activity. A myriad of factors
may be involved which may include,
but is not limited to, some of the
• Improper planting depth /
poor tree selection
• Nutrient poor / poorly
drained / poorly aerated /
compacted soils
• Drought
• Overwatering / flooding
• Mechanical damage – physical injury
• Insect damage – defoliation / vectors for pathogens
• Disease organisms – defoliation / cankers / root and
trunk rots / vascular wilts
• Severe weather – cold / heat / storm damage
• Improper pruning
• Root damage – from construction activities /
soil cuts / fills
• Competing vegetation – turf grass
Generally, if only one factor is involved, a vigorous,
healthy tree can tolerate a single stress event. Unfortunately,
this is typically not what happens. Usually multiple factors
are involved and build over time.
Predisposing factors are long-term. Often, climate,
site, age, genetic predisposition and construction activity
are predisposing factors. These may not lead to obvious
problems, but predispose trees to
Inciting factors are short-term. Events like insect
defoliation, frost damage or drought are examples of inciting factors. If not for the predisposing factors, trees could
recover, but predisposed trees go into decline and are
vulnerable to
Contributing factors may be
opportunistic fungi like Armillaria
root rot and insects such as bark beetles. These can be the straw that
breaks the proverbial camel’s back.
They finish off the tree, but normally
would not do so unless the tree was
already declining from the cumulative
effect of consecutive stresses.
Trees cannot move and leave a
stressful situation, and many stress
factors are often at work over the
course of the year(s). When it comes
to developing a management plan for
confronting stress, multiple procedures and treatments need to be considered. Ensuring
long-term tree health and beauty is typically accomplished
by employing a variety of plant health care procedures over
the years.
First, it is best to start with a quality tree, properly
planted, that is matched to the site. Next, water and mulch
properly through the years to relieve moisture stress and
build healthier soils. Control insect and disease issues
preventatively and as they arise, many of which are with
us year after year. Fertilizing will add needed nutrients
that are often limited in disturbed soils and when trees are
competing with turf grass. Improve root health with mycorrhizae and compost teas. Proper pruning will remove dead
and diseased wood and improve structural integrity.
Your trees are valuable assets subject to a variety
of stresses through the years. We need to reduce and
ameliorate those as we can, and remember, it is never
just one thing.

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