Trees Stressed by Lack of Water

AMES, Iowa — Dry conditions are putting stress on Iowa trees. With much of the state experiencing abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report on July 3, 2012, trees on marginal sites are dying all over the state, said Jesse Randall, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach forester.

“This year trees with other non-fatal ailments will die because of the addition of drought stress,” said Randall. “Trees planted within the last three years need two to three waterings per week. Once you start to water you cannot stop.” Randall said residents must decide whether to provide consistent watering or take their chances with Mother Nature.

Randall recommends watering in the early morning hours or late evenings, and continuing to water until 1 inch rains become a regular event.

Newly planted trees don’t have the root systems to handle drought stresses. Even when planted correctly and with a good healthy root system, they just can’t make it without help because the roots system is not fully developed said Randall.

“This drought will speed up the decline of 'hidden' unhealthy trees as well,” Randall said. “While it is difficult to lose a tree, drought conditions are exposing a lot of older trees that had pre-existing conditions and would have been lost at some point.”

Around the state conifers are taking the drought hard and showing lots of stress. Street trees are showing increasing amounts of stress. Additional information on tree health and care is available on the Iowa State University Extension Forestry website.