pH Matters

In our last blog post we mentioned that some of our clients were seeing some yellowing, blotchy leaves falling from their Crab Apple trees. We mentioned that with the spring being as cool, damp and protracted as it was, all types of fungus and blight issues flourish in those conditions. We mentioned that just because we treat your trees against Apple Scab fungus, it does not mean that certain other fungus or blights might not be an issue in some years. Certain fungus and blights are not really treatable, and if they are, they might require different products, treatment timing & even more applications than what is required to treat Apple Scab or Rust issues.

The bottom line is that Apple Scab disease is the most debilitating fungus of all, and even though this may be a tough year for fungal and blight issues, your trees will still look really good if they are being treated by us. They might not be as perfect as they have looked in prior years, but they will be, without a doubt, better than in the years before you started having your trees treated.

That being said, we are also looking into whether the Apple Scab Fungus in some of our treatment areas is developing a certain tolerance to the products that we have used for many years on the Crabs that we treat. Additionally, we are noticing that the pH of the local water supply has been rising increasing from 7.5 to 8.3 pH in recent years. It is well known in our industry that the higher the pH level, the harder it is for insecticides and fungicides to work to their full potential. This is why when homeowners spray their bushes with hose sprayers or those one-gallon pump sprayers, they often claim the products they buy at local nurseries or hardware stores do not seem to work very well. Besides the fact that these are inexpensive products, compared to products we use, the pH also needs to be lowered to get results. The product labels don’t mention the pH level, however, because they don’t want to make it seem so confusing that people will avoid buying the product.

So what does all of this mean going forward?

Tree care is a very, very complex field. Situations and conditions are constantly changing and we do everything we can do to stay up-to-date and adapt to those conditions.

We work in cooperation with another tree company from Wisconsin who takes what they do as seriously as we do. Comparing notes, they determined that the local Apple Scab spores might be developing a tolerance to the product mixture that they used. They had the same issue in Wisconsin years ago, made some changes, and got great results from making those changes. We plan to implement those changes in Illinois in 2017.

First, we are further reducing the pH of the local water that we use by adding water softening products to the water. Additionally, in the case of Apple Scab, we will be adding an additional fungicidal product that works with an additional mode of action.

Blotchy and Falling Leaves

We have received several calls from clients whose trees are dropping some leaves. Some of these are trees that we treat against the Apple Scab Fungus. It stands to reason that one might be concerned that our spray applications may not be working as well this year, but that is not the case.

Those of you who have had Tree Green treating your Crab Apple trees the past several years already know that our spray treatments work tremendously well. In the past, these untreated trees could lose up to 90% of their leaves and appear almost dead during the mid-June through mid-October time frame. Think back to those days and remember just how horrible those trees looked. Even though your trees may be dropping some leaves right now, you will not experience what you experienced before your trees were treated. But that doesn’t mean the trees will be perfect.

There are two reasons that this is happening.  First, just because we treat your trees against one certain fungal problem, that doesn’t mean the tree has a protective bubble over it and that other types of fungus or blights might not attack the tree during wet Springs or Summers. There are funguses or blights that either can’t be controlled at all, or can’t be controlled with the products that we use against Apple Scab. There are all kinds of ‘additional’ pathogens that can still attack the tree. But the worst of the funguses, Apple Scab, will not cause your tree to look like it has in the past.

Second, these trees have been keeping most of their leaves during the years that we treated them for you. This causes them to be denser. Because they are denser they are actually healthier and grow much better as they absorb energy from the sun through mostly healthy leaves. But as the warm, dry summer months come, the tree realizes that it can’t sustain all those leaves so it sheds some leaves from their weaker areas. Leaves can turn bright yellow and fall, mostly from the interior of the tree where the sun has a harder time penetrating the inner canopy.  This occurrence can happen to any tree, treated or not.

We have volumes of books covering the thousands of insect, fungal and blight related issues that can affect trees and shrubs. It is not necessary, or even possible, to protect against all of them. We only recommend that you protect your trees from the most debilitating of issues such as Apple Scab Fungus, Birch Borers, Emerald Ash Borer, Japanese Beetles and Scales.

So try not to get too worried about your trees if they are being treated. If we are ‘Root Feeding’ your trees every year, rest assured they are as healthy as we can make them and this rich suspension of minerals and nutrients will help them withstand most issues that may affect them.