Serious bark problem on two young apple trees

Two young apple trees on M111 have been looking bad for months and I just took a closer look and discovered that much of the bark on the lower trunk is cracking or peeling off. I’m not sure if I can save the trees (Gala and Pink Lady) but I’d like some opinions as to the cause.

I thought it might be from watering, and the trees are surrounded by bark mulch…but I have chicken wire cylinders(6" diameter) around the base so I don’t think there was much contact from the wet bark. The trees are inside some deer fencing plus surrounded by chicken wire (4 ft high) plus with the mentioned 6" cylinders around the trunk, so I doubt that this was caused by an animal…and it doesn’t look like that anyways.

In the photos I see some borer holes, and I’m not sure if they are associated with the bark peeling which is pretty dramatic.

I can’t tell from the strange “preview” function if all the photos are showing, so below are some more, including the trees when I first started worrying about their curled leaves.

Sorry about the focus on some of the photos, and I hope they are all here…can’t tell from the preview function as it only shows some of them.

These two trees were a replacement for two identical ones that suffered the same type of problem. Is it possible that this is a soil borne disease that will remain in this spot. I have two other apple trees in the same strip of dirt but 20 feet over and they are doing fine so far.

Any thoughts on this bark problem?


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I wouldn’t be reel optimistic about them at this point. Try to kill the borer if it is still there, paint the trunks with a mixture of white latex paint, water and 7 dust then wrap with aluminum screen wire. Also cut all the dead bark back to live wood.

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that’s a real shame, I agree with @BenHawggard the prognosis for them pulling through is pretty slim…the wood at the base looks rotted and it certainly looks like something was boring in there.

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I had an elderberry that looked like that - so much damage I didn’t think the tree would make it. I did a lower bark and soil drench of neem and tobacco vape diluted and it came back and yielded more than all the other elderberries. Kinda surprising how nature bounces back.

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If there is still a continuous strip of bark left on them then they could survive, as long as you kill whatever borer was in it.

Instead of cutting off/pulling any root stock suckers that sprout up (looks like there might have been one). You could leave them grow and if the top survives do a bridge graft around the damaged portion of the trunk with the root sucker.

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JustAnne, I was just re-reading this thread and I’m curious about the Neem oil and Tobacco vape mixture you used as a soil drench. I don’t know what Tobacco vape is, unless it’s something connected to these people you see puffing away on their silly little vaporizers. Could you give me some details about this mixture you’re using?


Yes John, it is that form of tobacco…but I can explain…LOL :blush:
When I was reading about organic pesticides I came across this…

Nicotine, for example, is produced by plants in the genus Nicotiana as a powerful herbivore (plant-feeding) deterrent. Nicotine is also a potent insecticide…

So I’m not familiar with these things but I wanted to try it and the most convenient form I found was tobacco vape. You only need maybe 2 drops/pint in a foliar, like for scale. I can’t find my recipe for the bark & soil drench, but I would say 5 drops along with 1 Tbsp of the Neem (I have the already emulsified version) in a gallon of water. Then soak the base of each tree good w/a quart of this mixture.


And one more thing. The source I quoted also said nicotine was toxic to mammals so hopefully will deter the bark chewing kind. If you were to look at my row of elderberries now, the one I treated stands out as the best specimen. So I’m guessing that the soil drench discouraged nematodes as well.