What Will Kill Tree Branches?

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What Will Kill Tree Branches?
Branch dieback on trees is a problem. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Whether evergreen or deciduous, the branches of trees are what give them their distinct appearance and keep them healthy and growing each season. Dieback on various branches indicates a health problem that requires the attention of a gardener as this is a condition that starts out by damaging branches and may end up killing the entire tree.

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Girdling Cankers

Girdling cankers are pests that grow around the base of a branch, effectively cutting the branch off from moisture and nutrients from the roots of the tree and preventing the leaves from processing sunlight properly. As cankers grow on the stem of a branch, they spread through the wood and kill the branch. Branches with cankers will die and should be removed to stop the spread of spores. Clean all pruning tools between cuts.

Girdling Roots

Issues in the soil with roots can cause branch dieback on a variety of tree species. Girdling roots, which are especially a problem in maples, involve roots that wrap around one another and cut off branches in the tree, which die unless the roots are separated. Manual separation of the branches is crucial in saving the upper portions of the tree. Remove the strangled section of root and apply wound paint to the remaining root area before adding dirt again.

Soil Conditions

Unbalanced soil pH leads to twig and branch dieback. Extremely acidic or alkaline soils are damaging to trees that require a more neutral soil or grow best in milder acid or basic soil. Check the pH of the soil annually to determine whether or not the soil is becoming too unbalanced to support the healthy growth of your tree. Soil pH is modified through the addition of fertiliser or chemicals, such as ammonium sulphate or lime.

Environmental Factors and Disease

According to the University of Illinois, decline and twig dieback are often caused by a combination of factors, including rapid temperature changes, diseases caused by fungi or bacteria, chemical damage from pesticides and herbicides and physical injury from pruning. The stresses of environmental conditions rarely act alone in causing twig or branch dieback, and a variety of factors must be assessed when treating the tree. Engage in methodical cultural maintenance of the tree to restore it to health.

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