Monday, May 15, 2017

Cages protect young pecan trees from deer browse

    A picture may be worth a thousand words but the two photos above teach a valuable lesson. The photo on the left shows an unprotected seedling pecan trees that has been heavily browsed by deer. The tree on the right is enclosed by a cage constructed of welded wire fencing. This tree has a full canopy of leaves and has already made over ten inches of new shoot growth.

    Although browsing doesn't kill the tree, the removal of new growth ultimately stunts the growth of the tree.  The photo at right shows the terminal of the tree that was browsed. The yellow arrow points to the stub of this year's new growth left behind after a deer bit off the top of the tree. You can tell it this stump  is from the spring flush of new growth because of its green color.  Once the deer removed the first flush of new growth, its taken the secondary buds a couple of weeks to start breaking.
    The lesson I've learned is that tree cages are now necessary for every young tree on my farm.  I use 2 x 4 inch welded wire to build the cage. I've used both 4 foot and 5 foot tall wire but find that 4 tall works just as well in curtailing deer browse. I've used both light gauge and heavy gauge wire but find that the greater expense of the heavy gauge wire is offset by the cage's greater durability. As the trees grow above browse height, I'll remove the welded wire cage then re-use the cage to protect newly planted trees.