FINDING ANSWERS

TO THE ROOT

Q

Is rooting of dwarf-type tall fescues more shallow than other tall fescues?
— via the Internet

A

Tall fescue does well in warmer transitional climates because it avoids drought by deep rooting. Dwarf tall fescues are touted for their reduced top growth (and subsequent mowing requirement) as well as high density. But you might think that because it has reduced top growth, it probably has less on the other end — roots — too. However, research shows that this is not the case. In a hydroponic study, researchers in Nebraska found that dwarf- and turf-type cultivars and lines had the best responses for total root production and distribution. They compared dwarf tall fescues Bonsai, Monarch, Shortstop II and an experimental (5-DD) to a number of turf-type tall fescues, intermediate tall fescues (5-ERG and Kentucky-31) and a forage-type (Kenhy). By measuring root dry weight and root distribution, the researchers found no evidence of reduced root production or distribution when comparing dwarf-type and turf-type with intermediate or forage types.

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Source: Kyoung-Nam Kim, Robert C. Shearman and Terrance P. Riordan. 1999. “Top Growth and Rooting Responses of Tall Fescue Cultivars Grown in Hydroponics,” Crop Science 39:1431-1434.

SPLITTING UP

Q

I have a 20-year-old ash with a major split up the trunk from about 2 feet up from the soil all the way up the tree. What caused this, and what can I do about it?
— Kansas

A

Your problem could be a frost crack. A frost crack is a longitudinal crack that can be several feet long, and it can occur instantaneously when a tree trunk is warmed by a sunny day followed by a cold night below 15 degrees F. The tremendous force of the cracking wood can be confused with a rifle shot. The cause is from differential contraction of internal weak wood (caused from healing from a previous — often years ago — injury) and the outer layer of healthy wood. The internal defective wood does not contract as readily as the outer layers of healthy wood when winter temperatures plunge rapidly.

Another cause may be poor branching habit. Branches with strong connections exhibit a rough ridge of bark connecting the branch to the trunk. In weak crotches, the ridge does not form, and the bark grows into the branch crotch. The inward-folded bark of the crotch blocks the upper half of the branch from joining with trunk, and a weak connection is formed. When the tree encounters strong wind, the trunk can split.

If the split was not too severe, you could have used bracing, lip bolting or cabling to support the split. However, in your case it sounds as if the tree is too far gone. Your tree is a liability in this condition. Do yourself a favor and remove the tree.

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