Rooting through powders versus dip solutions (Horticultural Q&A)
(Editor’s note: Deborah Smith Fiola operates Landscape IPM Enterprises in Frederick, Md.)
Q. What is your opinion on the best type of root hormone products? Which do you think is better: Powders or dip solutions (for general greenhouse propagation)? Thanks, C.B.; Southern Md.)
A. Propagation of cuttings is typically fast-tracked by treating cuttings with commercially available rooting hormones.
Both products have their place, and the choice may depend upon cost, storage and effectiveness.
In general, my opinion is that in general, talc-based powdered forms of rooting hormones are a bit less effective than liquid formulations applied at the same concentration.
However, with this said, powdered forms are easier to work with and faster to apply. These factors may ultimately make powders more cost effective. I’m assuming that you will be dipping bases of cuttings, several at a time (not individually)?
On the other hand, liquid products (quick-dip solutions) offer consistent results and are simple to use. They can be applied with a hand-held spray bottle for quick, easy applications that reduce the potential for disease spread.
As always, there are downsides of both products: liquid products are good only for a day, once diluted, and any unused liquid should be discarded.
Formulations dissolved in alcohol potentially may dehydrate, or burn plant tissue (this is why instruction often say to only dip for a limited amount of time in the liquid).
To offset this problem, water soluble formulations are available. Prolonged immersion may also result in a cutting receiving too much hormone, which may prevent rooting.
In addition, the risk of disease contamination is higher with liquid formulations. Liquid products do not store as well, either, with effectiveness weakening over time.
Therefore, liquid products have a shelf life (six months to a year), resulting in potentially less cost effectiveness.
Talc powders can have the talc carrier removed upon insertion into the media if a dibble isn’t used appropriately.
And over-application of certain formulations can not only cause damage to the cutting base, but excess can actually inhibit root initiation. (That’s why excess powder is knocked off excess of cuttings).
Whichever product you choose, be sure to read the label and follow the instructions.
Q. I’ve got some viburnums (Alleghany Viburnum) as foundation plants in front of my sales office. I just noticed (literally) that the stems are covered with holes! Like there are shallow holes lined up along most of the branches. See photo — they are mostly on the lower branches, but quite noticeable. What in the world are these? Is it some giant borer hole? What can I do? (F.J., Western Md.)
A. Thanks for attaching a photo (at right). The almost-straight horizontal line of holes is a giveaway that this is sapsucker damage.
A sapsucker is a type of woodpecker.
The most common species in Maryland is the yellow bellied sapsucker.
The bird is about the size of a robin, about 7-8 inches.
Both males and females have black and white wings and bodies with red “foreheads”
Males also have red throats. Only the females have very pale yellow “bellies” (the males have white bellies).
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are migratory birds, although they can be found in Maryland woodlands and yards in winter as well as during the growing season.
They drill shallow 1/4- to 3/8-inch rectangular holes in healthy trees to feed on the sap.
They also feed on any insects and spiders entrapped by the sap, as well as on live bark.
The holes are often called “sapwells,” since the birds return to the holes and enlarge them by continued pecking.
The holes are typically arranged close together in long horizontal rows, just as you describe, yet can extend to many rows per branch, and on multiple branches per tree.
In most instances, the damage done by yellow-bellied sapsuckers is not enough to cause permanent damage to healthy trees.
Yet when the sapsucker holes completely encircle/girdle the tree, branches may die above the damage.
According to a USDA study (Rushmore, 1969) trees typically survive substantial sapsucker feeding, but if heavily attacked for multiple years they can be gradually killed.
Large numbers of holes can cause patches of bark to slough off. Sometimes limb and trunk girdling may kill the tree.
The damage may serve as a wound entry for pathogens, borers, or wood decay organisms.
Sapsuckers feed on over 175 different trees and shrubs, including apple/crabapple, beech, birch, cedar, hemlock, holly, linden, maple, mountain ash, peach, plum, pine,
Sephora, serviceberry, southern magnolia, and spruce, among many.
They prefer young birch and maple trees, especially in the spring, when the sap is flowing and at its highest concentration of sugars.
The birds also seem to prefer branches with diameters of at 2 inches (to a maximum of 16 inches).
Sapsuckers have nesting territories, and make feeding rounds from tree to tree. They are not easy to drive from their territories, which makes them hard to control.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 makes it illegal for shoot these birds, and a federal permit is needed for relocating them off of the property.
I’ve read of a variety of ways to discourage sapsuckers. Wrapping branches with burlap or mesh netting is recommended (although labor intensive).
Make sure that the ends are not tied tightly to allow the plant to grow.
Alternatively, try hanging thin strips of aluminum flashing /mylar strips to branches near the stem of the tree.
The idea is that the strips will blow with the wind (especially if twisted to form a coil that catches the wind better) and scare away the birds.
Hang them to stems with 2-3 inches cotton string for maximum movement (note that cotton string will degrade in a season so won’t cause girdling problems on branches).
Another option would be to spread Tanglefoot, a sticky product, over branches/tree trunks to discourage sapsuckers from landing.
Do realize that over time the product gets coated in dirt and dust, so could become unsightly.
Also keep in mind that if you discourage sapsuckers from one tree, they may just move over to another tree.
Because of this, some orchard owners let the sapsuckers work on their favorite trees and are vigilant in making sure nearby trees are protected.
(Disclaimer: The information presented in this column serve as guidelines only, and may contain cultural and pesticide recommendations that are subject to change at any time.
Any pesticides mentioned are recommended only if they are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Agriculture.
It is the pesticide applicator’s responsibility by law to read and follow all label directions for the specific product being used. Due to constantly changing labels and product registrations, if any information herein disagrees with the label, the recommendations must be disregarded. If a registration is changed or cancelled, any any products mentioned are no longer recommended. Before you apply any pesticide, fungicide, or herbicide, check with your state or county Extension agent for the latest information.
The USER is responsible for using products that are registered for use on specific crops in their own state, and for using products according to label directions. If any information presented in this column is inconsistent with the product label, follow the label instructions. Always consult the product label for rates and crops listed. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this column does not imply endorsement by Landscape IPM Enterprises, and absence of a labeled product does not imply ineffectiveness nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Landscape IPM Enterprises assumes no liability from the use of these recommendations.)
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