EXTENSION CONNECTION: Excessive water can doom trees

Published: Monday, October 7, 2013 at 10:52 AM.

Additionally, there is noticeable root growth loss within seven days. Roots only develop when soil oxygen levels are at 5-15 percent. Soon, pathogens attack decaying roots. Loss of root mass from decay and fungal attack leave the tree prone to drought damage. After two weeks of saturated soil conditions, the root crown area can have so many problems that decline and even death are imminent.

Sealed fate

Nutrient uptake is necessary for plants to function. However, in saturated soil, anaerobic organisms — primarily bacteria — replace the aerobic organisms that once existed in the soil. These bacteria convert nitrogen into forms unavailable to plants.

In addition, manganese, iron and sulfur become limited because the soil pH has increased, making the elements unrecognizable. With little to no functioning root system, trees in saturated soils do not have the means to uptake nutrients, even if they were available.

When a tree experiences anaerobic soil conditions, it will exhibit symptoms of leaf loss with minimal to no new leaf formation. This usually appears two to eight weeks after the soil dries out again. Many trees — especially more juvenile and mature trees — will not survive.

Well-established trees may still decline several years later, if they experience additional stresses such as drought or root disturbance from construction.

Preventive measures

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