What are Abiotic Tree Disorders and What Causes Them? There are two types of tree diseases. Disorders caused by living things such as insects, bacteria, fungi, and animals are called biotic. Disorders caused by non-living things such as drought, physical injury, or extreme cold are referred to as “abiotic.”
The Difference Between Biotic and Abiotic Disorders
Abiotic disorders, like a drought, often impact several plant types in one area, whereas living organisms such as pests and disease will target one species. Pests and diseases often leave physical signs. For example, you may see powdery mildew on the plant’s leaves, or find insects. Abiotic disorders aren’t usually visible.
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Causes of Abiotic Diseases
Common causes of abiotic tree disorders include:
- Construction damage
- Extreme temperatures
- Improper planting
- Physical damage from storms, mower impact, or road salt
- Under or overwatering
- Poor soil conditions
Types of Abiotic Diseases
Root and soil issues are the most common types of abiotic disorders. A major symptom to look for is stress throughout the entire canopy. Specific concerns include the following:
- Girdling roots, which grow tightly around the tree, effectively choking it.
- Compacted soil from foot traffic or construction activity.
- Root damage caused by construction.
- Stress caused when there isn’t enough soil for the tree to grow.
Nutrient deficiencies and factors such as the soil’s pH level are common in yards without enough organic matter. Symptoms of nutrient deficiency include:
- Lackluster appearance
- Yellow leaves
- Poor growth
Tree care mistakes (improper cultural practices) are another source of abiotic tree problems. These include:
- Improper mulching
- Underwatering or overwatering
- Poor pruning
- Improper planting
How to Prevent Abiotic Disorders
The most effective way to prevent abiotic tree problems is to choose the best trees for your yard, and plant them properly. It’s also important to follow the best tree care methods. Other prevention tips include:
Physical damage from storms or other causes can be reduced with proper pruning. Hire a certified arborist trained in proper pruning techniques.
Root and soil issues can be prevented through proper planting and pruning.
- Allow room for branches to grow above ground, as well as roots below
- Avoid planting the tree too deeply
- Never dig in the root zone, as this will damage tree roots
- Protect the root zone during construction to avoid compacting the soil
- Never “volcano mulch” by piling mulch against the tree’s trunk, where the long-term moisture can cause bark to rot
Salt damage can be prevented by wrapping trees and shrubs in burlap, leaving air space between the fabric and the leaves.
Nutrient deficiencies can be avoided using correctly installed mulch rings and compost to provide a long-term source of readily available nutrients.
How to Treat Abiotic Disorders
Consulting a professional who can examine your landscape and is familiar with current plant health issues in your area will help you get answers sooner. Biotic and abiotic factors often both contribute to problems in a tree. To properly treat abiotic disorders, it’s important to determine all of the factors contributing to the problem. For example, a tree that is stressed from growing in poor soil may then get infested with a pest. Both problems must be treated for the tree to recover and thrive. Other treatment approaches:
- Testing soil and fertilizing accordingly.
- Collecting and testing samples to identify and treat pests or diseases.
- Aerating compacted soil with an air tool to “fluff” it without damaging roots.
- Pruning to help a tree recover from damage caused by storms, road salt, or extreme temperatures.
We believe in long-term solutions that keep your trees thriving. Tree damage is often caused by many contributing factors; treatments won’t do any good if the root causes aren’t addressed. Our experts use a comprehensive approach to treat current tree health issues and prevent future problems. If you’re having trouble determining what’s wrong with your tree, one of our certified arborists can figure it out!