How To Determine If Your Tree Is Suffering From An Abiotic Issue

When it comes to issues that affect trees, they will have either a biotic cause or they will be completely abiotic. Biotic diseases are the result of fungal, bacterial, or viral pathogens. An abiotic disease is the result of something in the environment, such as drought stress or temperature exposure. Often, you can save a tree if the cause of its distress is abiotic, while many biotic diseases will lead to tree death because there is no treatment. The following guide can help you determine whether the issue with your tree is abiotic.

Are there any signs of fungal growth?

One of the more deadly issues for trees is a fungal attack on the roots or trunk tissue. Fungus or mushroom growth from the base of the tree or along the trunk is usually the first hint that the tree's health is failing due to fungus. Although fungal growth isn't always in a visible area, not finding fungal growth increases the chances that your tree's health woes may be curable.

Can you find the signs of a biotic infection?

Examine the foliage and trunk wood carefully, since most biotic issues leave evidence of a living pathogen. For example, you may find sticky, discolored areas on leaves or bark, which is caused by bacteria and known as bacterial ooze. Insects often leave boreholes or create woody cysts, called galls, on tree branches or trunks. If you can't find any signs of a biotic disease present, you may be dealing with an abiotic issue.

How is dieback occurring?

Your first clue that your tree has an issue is often leaf dieback. If the dieback of foliage is simply bare branch tips -- and all branches are affected and defoliated -- a fungal, viral, or bacterial pathogen in the roots is the likely cause. This is because when the roots are attacked, the tree can't get enough nutrients to the branch tips to maintain foliage. On the other hand, if leaves are turning brown and dry all over the tree, even if just around the margins, the issue is likely abiotic and caused by drought stress. Leaves that start to yellow but don't drop could be the result of too much water, another fixable abiotic issue.

Is growth poor but not distorted?

Many biotic issues that affect growth rate also distort new or existing growth on a tree. For example, leaves may be deformed as well as slow-growing if an insect or viral pathogen is the cause. Slowed growth or failure to leave out well with no signs of distortion or deformation is more likely to be a fixable abiotic condition, like improper fertilization. Having the soil tested and providing any missing nutrients can solve this problem.

Talk to a tree removal service like The Tree Lady Company if you are unsure of the cause or if it can be fixed. In some cases, removal is the best option, especially if the problem ends up being a contagious biotic condition.