Diagnosing Tree Problems: A 3-Step Solution

07-01-2016 in Green Farmstead Partner

After devoting your time and money to a newly planted farm windbreak, the last thing you want is for your trees to become unhealthy, lose their aesthetic appeal or die. The reality is, trees are susceptible to a number of health threats including environmental stresses, siting problems, animal injury, disease and insect infestations.

Diagnosing tree problems doesn’t necessarily require referencing a textbook or online resource. Instead, the process can start with you. By following these three easy steps, your own observations may be the key to finding the right solution.

Step 1: Examine the Foliage

Systematically examine your trees by starting with the leaves or needles. Note any discolored foliage including abnormal shades of yellow, light green, black or browning leaf margins. You should also check for the presence of holes, ragged edges, spots, deformities or insects, as well as any sign of prematurely fallen leaves.

Step 2: Assess the Trunk and Branches

Direct observation of the trunk and branches may reveal mechanical bark injuries, ice, hail, or wind damage, or evidence of insect activity. Additionally, the presence of any wet, sticky substances, may indicate a bacterial infection, while fungal conks or cankers may indicate internal decay.

Step 3: Consider the Roots 

Finally, an inspection of what’s happening below the soil surface may lead to an accurate diagnosis. Check the base of the tree to determine planting depth, and note any changes to the surrounding soil including compacting, excessively wet or dry ground or standing water. You should also verify if there is any visual evidence of girdling roots or other signs of physical injury.

Other Important Considerations

Additional characteristics to keep in mind while documenting your observations include:

–          Specific variety or cultivar

–          Approximate age or tree size

–          Soil type

–          Water, fertilizers or chemicals applied to (or near) tree

–          Evidence of injury to surrounding vegetation

–          Date or time of year when symptoms appeared

At the end of the day, your eyes are your best resource for initiating a simple tree diagnosis.

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Communications Intern 

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