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Urgently Needed Advice--Apple Tree Borers, stump rot, and what to do!!!  RSS feed

 
McKennaugh Kelley
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We need help!!
It's kind of a along story, but we have 11 semi-dwarf apple trees, about 10 years old, who keep on being uprooted from one place to another, and not being properly planted. We are at last trying to clear a final spot for these poor trees and discovered that their stumps are rotten, and almost all have large "borer holes."

I figure that most "experts" would say to just let the lot go and start over, but these trees sort of have sentimental value, so we'd love to save them. Attached are pictures, can you help us identify which borer this would be causing the damage? (Note: We live in Pennsylvania.) And being that we're organic gardeners, is there a natural way to help control this? (There are small just-under-bark "tunnel scars," too--is this from the borer as well?!?)

Also, I read that if you plant a semi-dwarf DEEPER than the rootstock grafting it will send out roots ABOVE the graft and become a full-sized tree. Being that our trees' stumps and thus rootstock are weakened due to rot (from the bore-ing) if we planted them deep--would they root higher and thus be saved? Thanks for taking time for our strange questions!! We really love our trees and feel super sad that our lack of space and care has caused them to be so ill Thank you again! --McKennaugh
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Borer Hole
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Bark "tunnels"
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Another hole
 
James Freyr
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Location: Middle Tennessee
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It's gonna be impossible to tell precisely which borer it is based on the bore hole. Could be roundheaded apple tree borer, dogwood borer or a few others. Some are beetles, some are moths, all are little bastards. The grubby larval stage of life is feasting on the cambium and sapwood in the tree. The crown rot may likely be from phytophthora and is usually caused by either planting too deep or piling mulch up against the base of a tree. (Those trees we all see in office parks and shopping malls and parks that have pretty little donuts of mulch around the base of the trees will eventually kill them. Old trees that came from seed that look like they have feet with the crown fully exposed is a good example of how the base of a tree should appear.) Looking in your photo it also appears that there are cankers on the tree, which are often caused by bacteria. There are a couple ways to approach the borers. One is clay based slurries you can apply to the trunk to repel egg laying females. Frequent applications of raw, unadulterated, cold-processed neem oil (diluted in water of course) can help disrupt the life cycle of the borer. Raw neem oil also has some amazing qualities for preventing diseases too. These methods work best to prevent such maladies from afflicting your trees. Your poor trees have sustained a lot and it is quite likely they will never recover. May I suggest planting new trees while also trying to nurse these along if you really want to save them. Quality fruit bearing trees take years to get established and it may be a good idea to have a backup plan planted now instead of trying to rescue these trees only to have them die in 3 or 5 years anyway. One thing you should be aware of is if you plant new trees in proximity to the sick ones, the injured trees already have a weak immune system and can harbor other diseases and result in high disease pressure on your new trees. And by proximity I mean a couple hundred yards. Regardless of what you choose to do, don't let organic matter pile up next to and be in contact with the base of a tree. If you did try to plant them extra deep, and the fruiting cultivar did indeed happen to sprout roots, the trunk will eventually rot. This may not have been what you were hoping to hear, but from the pictures your trees are in bad shape and may I suggest cutting your losses and starting with new trees from a reputable nursery. Hope this helps!
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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Perhaps you could save a part of your trees via scion. Graft onto some new root stock. You would be starting over in regards to fruit production, but if these are trees from Great Grandmas farm... I'd try it.
 
Lee Kochel
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WRT borers, I can give you my experience with peach tree borers.  In my case they had invaded the base of the tree and eaten out about 3/4 of the trunk -- I could have pushed the 20 year old tree over with one hand.  I started to foliar spray with a solution of ocean trace minerals in a solution of 1% CaCl2.  10 years later that tree is still there, producing peaches every year, and no more leaf curl and no more loss of fruit to wasps, and no more borers all with absolutely no pesticides.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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If I were steward over the trees, I think that I'd plant new trees, to get a great root system, and then graft the sentimental trees onto them. I've been known to buy (gaggy) red-delicious apples at end of season sales, and immediately graft a variety of my choosing onto the trees when planting.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I will second Joseph Lofthouse's recommendations.  At this point, there will be no chance of actually saving those trees, but you can have them live on by grafting to new stock.

Keep in mind that dwarf trees were not created for long life like a own roots tree. Most dwarfs do well to live 25 years.

Redhawk
 
McKennaugh Kelley
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Thank you all so much for taking the time to respond. I guess we have some decisions to make
Lee's peach tree story gives me hope, though!! Thanks, Lee!

Grafting is a good idea, I've never tried grafting anything before, but most of you make it sound easy. Anyone ever graft onto WILD APPLE trees? Although I wouldn't want to make our wild apples sick.

Or grafting onto any other wild trees--does anyone do this? Kinds? (We're Pennsylvania.)

Thank you all again. Any more advice is greatly appreciated!!

--McKennaugh
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I do lots of grafting. With whatever tools I have on hand. Today it was a pair of bypass shears, and electrical tape... Forgot my pocket knife. I've attempted about 26 grafts so far this year. I'll feel happy as a lark if half of them take. I love grafting domestic fruits onto wild tree roots. I love making ten-on-one fruit trees. They should be compatible species though: Apple on crab-apple. Stone fruits on stone fruits, etc.
 
Mark Blackburn
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Location: Salem, oregon
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I third Joylynn, but you will need to nurse the trees this summer to get them into dormancy.  You collect the scion wood in December and store it in a water tight bag in your refrigerator until spring.  Plants are pluripotent; each cell contains the same genetic information as all the other cells.  It is all in your definition into what constatitutes your tree... Is it the roots? Or the graft stock?

BTW to me the pictures look like pseudomonas damage.  That would be a bacterial infection occurring at knick or cut in the cambrium layer... Damage certainly possible during transplant. 
 
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