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It was more than drought that killed the trees

So say the experts.

Don’t blame the drought for killing an estimated 506 million trees in Texas. At least, don’t blame it exclusively.

The drought is only part of the story of why trees are dying, according to a new report by the AgriLife Extension Service at Texas A&M University.

In most cases, the report says, the trees that died in 2011 were already stressed from pre-existing factors such as overcrowding, growing on the wrong site, age, soil compaction, trenching or inappropriate use of herbicides.

“If not for these factors, a large proportion of the trees that died might have recovered from the drought,” according to the report by Dr. Eric Taylor, a forestry specialist with the extension service.

The 2011 drought “severely weakened mature trees, making them susceptible to opportunistic pathogens like hypoxylon canker and insects like pine bark engraver beetles,” Taylor said in the report.

The report helps explain to the public what experts see, said Jim Houser, a forest health coordinator with the Texas Forest Service.

“That’s true, we tend to simplistically (blame) the drought,” Houser said. “In actuality, it’s a variety of problems that tend to combine together to kill trees. Certainly, the drought is the main problem.”

You can read the report here. The point they’re making is that if the overall health of our trees had been better to begin with, we’d have lost fewer of them during the drought. The trees that did survive are likely to be weaker than before, so their health will need to be safeguarded as well.

Houser said Central Texans can still save their trees if they water.

“It’s very easy to say, ‘It doesn’t matter if my grass dies; I can replant,’ ” Houser said. Trees are another matter.

“They shouldn’t abandon their trees,” he said.

A good way to water your tree is to take one of those big plastic paint buckets, poke a hole or two near the bottom, put it next to your tree, and fill it with water from your garden hose. The bucket holds enough water for a good drink, and the holes allow the water to be released slowly enough to really soak in. That’s what we (and by “we” I mean “Tiffany”) did for our trees last year, anyway. Hope this helps.

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