intravenous fertilization of trees

mziecik(7)January 31, 2014

Has annyone fertilized their trees using an injection system and what were your results? For those who are not familiar with this process it involves drilling a small hole and injecting a nutrient/fertilizer into the tree.
Curious what's everyone's comfort level with such procedure? Please advise your thoughts.

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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Are you referring to providing actual fertilizer and/or micronutrients regularly to the tree? Perhaps in a situation with worsening health of a historic or specimen tree it could be of benefit, but for most trees in regular situations it would be better to provide additional N P and K via soil application. Micronutrients are sometimes lacking due to either very high or very low pH soils, but in that case it is usually a problem of "the wrong tree in the wrong place."

In our high pH soils around here many companies have been injecting chlorotic trees (mostly pin oaks) with iron. It has been successful in reducing the chlorosis for a few years, but the best long term solution is reducing the pH over a number of years around the drip lines of the trees with fall core aerations in conjunction with sulfur applications .

Two problems: the injections are done in summer when the trees are in leaf and they usually completely defoliate, although they tend to leaf back out later.

And, there has been a great deal of debate about damage to the injection sites. On pin oaks this is typically done at the root flare. Some say the damage is worth the cure that the injection provides; again, this would apply if the tree is in major decline. Others think that damage at the injection sites will eventually compound the decline of the tree by creating dead wood around the wound.

Also, the applicator must know what he or she is doing. Dr. Alex Shigo, respected tree expert, said, "I am not against proper injections. I am very much against improper injections and implants when large, deep holes are inflicted on trees. Proper injection means very shallow holes no deeper than the current growth increment." He goes on to say, " The holes should be checked after one growing season to determine whether or not they are closing. If holes are not closing, additional injections should not be done."

My personal vote would be to use fertilizer injections only in cases of serious decline of specimen or historic trees.


This post was edited by hortster on Fri, Jan 31, 14 at 16:22

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 3:50PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

mziecik, what's the perceived advantage of doing this in your situation? Seems to me this is an approach for only very special cases, as hortster suggested. Much like feeding a person by IV!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 4:26PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i would suggest that trees dont have veins.. and it is nothing like a person on an IV ...

all the fluids flow .. and please correct me if i am wrong ... thru the cambian layer... which is the very thin green layer just under the bark ...

isnt all interior wood.. basically dead wood.. lumber... [probably not.. lol]

so.. if one were to drill right past the circulatory system of the tree.. into benign wood ... then what benefit would there be ...

i have never researched this... so fire away.. if i am out of the ballpark ...

if you fert your lawn.. any tree.. worth its salt.. will get whatever it needs .. broadcast it in circle.. under the tree.. in a circle as big as the tree is tall.. and let the tree do it itself.. instead of drilling holes... IMHO ...


    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 4:42PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

Giving a tree an IV is not an option in my garden. I'd cut it down and move on.
I agree with hortster that specimen historic trees are an exception.
None here. ;-)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 8:08PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"all the fluids flow .. and please correct me if i am wrong ... thru the cambian layer... which is the very thin green layer just under the bark ..."

OK, as per your request, that is incorrect. The cambium layer does not transport anything. Water and nutrients flow up from the roots though the xylem (mostly the very outer part of the xylem, right underneath the cambium) to the upper parts of the tree (leaves). After the leaves do their thing, the sap (containing the sugars and other organic compounds produced by photosynthesis) is carried by the phloem (outside of the cambium) and distributed to the rest of the tree.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 9:32PM
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I never had much success with it.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 12:21PM
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The application that I'm referring to would be annual or bi-annual, "green up" approach. Micronutrient is injected into the xylem as reader stated above.

The perceived benefits of intravenous (vascular) injection are:
1. more cost effective to treat than soil injection or standard fertilization
2. immediate uptake
3. prevents water run off (this could be big with some state/federal regulations - watch out for California)

Professional arborists perform such applications with insecticides and ferlizers on regular basis, granted it's mostly to treat diseases like dutch elm or emerald ash borer.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 1:09PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I second (or third) everything Hortster said.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 3:57PM
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