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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Drought can also damage, kill even large trees

  • A neighbor of mine, Gary Wyatt, stopped into my place on Sunday.

    Gary’s also a University of Minnesota Extension Service Educator in Agri-Forestry, Invasive Species and Renewal Energy. He works out of the Mankato office.
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  • A neighbor of mine, Gary Wyatt, stopped into my place on Sunday. 
    Gary’s also a University of Minnesota Extension Service Educator in Agri-Forestry, Invasive Species and Renewal Energy. He works out of the Mankato office.  
        I wanted to talk to him about the drought and what it’s doing to the region’s trees - specifically my trees.
        We walked over to a cedar tree that’s about 40 feet tall and has been a part of the farm for 40 years.  
        In August, I noticed much of the top had turned brown. Since then it’s lost a lot of its foliage and other parts are turning brown.
        I’ve been dumping copious amounts of water over the last couple of months, but Gary had some unsettling news.
        “Conifers can be dead for six months to even a year before they show it.”  
        “So this big tree is dead,” I asked.
        He tried to be positive, but it sure sounded like what he was telling me was my big cedar  was dead.  
        I knew conifers had shallow root systems, but Gary was telling me they were real shallow.  
        “Pines have a shallow root mass. Almost all of the roots are within three to four feet of the surface. The root systems extend way beyond the trees dripline,” Wyatt said.  
        Like many people the first three to four feet of my soil is bone dry. So perhaps mine and maybe your conifer trees are dying of thirst.
        Wyatt said that most deciduous trees’ root system are near the top of the surface - usually within the first two feet. I was under the impression that the roots of the tree somewhat mirrored what the tree was above ground.             
    That is not the case, so even large, mature trees can be stressed or die due to drought. He said black walnuts and oaks have tap roots that can go real deep.  
        “We’ve had two dry falls and a dry summer and that’s been stressing all trees and perennials. We are concerned about the newly planted trees and the existing pines and spruce trees,” Gary said.
        Gary advised people to, “Water two to three times a week during drought periods till the soil freezes up. Put on at least five gallons per watering.” He was especially concerned with newly planted trees, conifers and perennial plants.  
    Page 2 of 2 -     One challenge might be to get water to wind breaks or they might not be wind breaks in the future. Gary advised farmers to get water wagons out to wind breaks if at all possible.
        His message was pretty clear, “Keep watering till the ground freezes.”   

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