Lambert Cherry tree near death

Asked July 29, 2018, 4:07 AM EDT

We have a 25 year old Lambert cherry tree with two large trunks. This summer, The west half is completely dead and the east is 1/2 gone. The soil is a Utah Lake Bonneville "Quick-silt" collapsible silt clay that farmers don't bother to grow crops in. Now we see why. It is alkaline and when dry in its native state can "stop a pick" The soil won't let the roots absorb iron. a ph meter read about 7.5 [a low cost stick probes in the soil type meter]
We have gotten hundreds of pounds of cherries off this tree. When it had brown leaves in areas we watered it too much. We were told it had Iron Deficiency Chlorosis

We have sprayed 3 times last year and this year with "EDDHA Iron Chelate 6.0%" by Growmore. That has helped. We recently applied an Iron Sulfur product to soil "Iron Plus Soil Acidifier by Hi Yield co. This is 11% Nitrogen , 13% Sulfur , and 16% Iron. [not chelated Iron] Applied at about 2 pounds per 100 square feet.
The cherry leaves look dark green and healthy except now they have a 1 millimeter brown edges.
I was told at the nursery that the brown edges are caused because the roots can't keep up with the leaf demands. I will water more and deep.

We also put in some "Iron Tree Treats" by Biacor Co. 4.5% Iron. We drilled 3/8 inch holes in the trunk about an inch deep and pushed 7 plugs. in 7 holes.

Question 1: Brown leaf edges . will send photos tomorrow.

Question 2. Nursery man said tree has Coryneum blight One upper trunk has a dozen holes with sap extruding out. On ones side. Is this Coryneum blight or shot hole borers? I could carefully cut one open and see if there is a borer.

Thanks Gary Wallace Delta Meta Solutions R & D

Update: There are a dozen large sweet cherry trees in the neighborhood. they are all healthy. Why is mine so sick?
Will send photos tomorrow, I will try some foliar spray on leaves.

Utah County Utah

3 Responses

Cherries, and in fact the entire Prunus genus (cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, etc.) are very prone to all sorts of insects and diseases. Yours has a lot of problems but there is almost nothing that can be done other than pruning out the dead wood. You are way over doing it with the iron treatments. You should avoid any tree treatment for anything that involves making holes in the trunk. Just apply iron chelates to the soil underneath the canopy yearly.

The thing that you are doing that seems to me to make sense is that you are giving more and deeper water in response to the leaf edges turning brown. Leaf edges turning brown in trees in hot, dry areas is usually called leaf scorch and it is because the leaves are losing water faster than it can be taken up by the roots.

Whatever you do I recommend that you plant a replacement tree now because it sounds like this tree needs to be replaced. It has served you well but now it is time.

Mike Kuhns

Hi Mike, Thanks for the kind reply. What about "fixing the soil" ?
1. I will shovel off the top couple inches and discard that soil. There's a area under a tarp where an engine was stored. There is a white crusty junk on the surface. I was afraid there was engine oil leakage. That trunk / side of tree totally died.
2. Various authorities suggest "flushing the soil" 6 inches of water gets rid of 80% of "toxins".
I have access to a "fire hydrant / pressurized irrigation"
3. I will drill several drain / pump out holes to suck up the water. See: "Village Drill , Who Lives' for human powered water well drill that goes 200 feet deep. [will use their methods to go 3 to 5 feet deep.

The problem I see is having half of a dead tree sitting there. It should be pruned off, but if you do that will what remains be worth saving? You can't remove the surface soil because most tree roots are shallow (in the top foot of soil with most in the top couple of inches) and they go out mostly horizontally instead of down. You would be removing much of the root system if you take off the surface soil.

Flushing soil can be good if you have salt accumulating in the upper levels. Most people don't have that. Have the soil checked for salt if you suspect that. If the salt level is high enough to hurt the tree you could probably taste it.

I think that many cherries that have lived 25 years of useful life would be in similar shape. There are a lot of diseases and insects that you can't prevent or get rid of.