Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Preventing the Buck Rub Blues

    Once a young pecan trees grows to a point that it has a trunk 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter, it seems like it becomes the perfect target for a big buck deer to rub a massive scar on the young tree (photo at left). With deer populations growing out of control in rural areas across the US, growers will need to take preventative actions to prevent deer damage. Bucks rub the bark off of young trees starting in late August, so to prevent this type of damage preventive measures need to be in place by mid August.

     One of the first products designed to prevent deer damage were solid plastic "Tree Shelters" that can be placed over the trunk . Over time we learned that tree shelters cause almost as many problems as they prevented. Trees grown in shelters suffer temperature related bark injury (from the greenhouse effect inside the tube) and trunks often become twisted inside the tube by the action of the wind on upper branches. If anyone has heard me talk about tree shelters in the past they know I've renamed them "tree coffins". The damage they cause is as bad or worst than the damage caused by buck rub.

    Recently I've come across a new product that provides a protective shield against buck rub but doesn't alter the environment around the tree's trunk (pictured at left). These "tree bark protectors" are made of heavy gauge plastic and look a lot like wire hardware cloth. The tree bark protectors are pre-formed in tube shape but need to be held together with a twist tie or cable tie. The only down side of these protectors is that you need to monitor you trees closely and prune off any new sprouts that attempt to grow though protector. The holes in the plastic mesh are about 5/8 inch across so side limbs can easily become trapped in the mesh.

    On my farm, I use a 2" x 4" woven wire cage (5 feet tall)  to protect a new graft from deer browsing. As soon as the graft grows big enough to accept a 3 ft. tall tree protector, the wire cage comes off (to be used for next year's grafting season) and the tree protector goes on. I purchased the tree protectors from A.M. Leonard (