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Protecting fruit trees from vole damage and winter injury     Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 29, 2004]  URBANA -- There aren't as many food choices for mice, voles and other rodents during winter, which means that rodents like overwintering in the orchards and growers may lose some of their good, prolific fruit trees, said Maurice Ogutu, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator based in Cook County.

"The rodents tend to girdle tree trunks by eating tender new bark and the cambium layer underneath," he said. "The girdled tree dies in spring since there is no means for translocation of food from the shoots and no cambium layer for replenishment of vascular tissues."

Ogutu recommends that tree owners protect their trees during dormant season by:

  • Using hardware cloths of one-eighth- to one-fourth-inch mesh folded to form a cylinder of 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Encircle the trunk with the mesh 20 to 30 inches above the ground and extend it 2 to 4 inches into the ground to protect trees against rabbits as well.

  • Using poison baits such as Thiram during the dormant season. Read and follow label instructions when using any pesticide.

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Winter injury is very common to apple and other fruit trees, such as peaches, sour cherries and plums, in some parts of northern Illinois. The injury can occur on barks and roots of trees. The roots are injured when the soil is frozen. Some rootstocks are more prone to winter injury than others. Protect your trees by:

  • Planting hardy cultivars.

  • Using hardy rootstocks that can tolerate low temperatures.

  • Painting tree trunks with white latex paint.

  • Applying straw mulch 4 to 6 inches thick from the trunk to drip line to protect the roots of rootstocks that are susceptible to freeze injury from November to March, but check for rodents.

[University of Illinois news release]

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