Reprinted from the Greenline, September 15, 1995
Editors Comment: In the September 15, 1994 issue of Greenline, an article appeared regarding wire baskets and whether the wire should be removed before planting. Apparently the article created confusion among growers and landscape contractors. The following is printed in an effort to clear up this matter.
The wire itself was mostly intact and appeared almost as strong as when planting occurred. Spacing of the wire in the baskets appeared to provide ample room for roots to expand with no interference or restriction of roots. There was no evidence the wire was affecting the root system or the tree. When a tree declines or dies, look at all possible causes. There are an estimated 40 million trees transplanted within the last 35 years in wire baskets and few reports of trees declining from damage or restrictions of roots caused by the use of wire baskets. Root tissue appears to grow around the wire and reconnect. Concern with wire baskets should focus on their real function, that being a proper method of lifting the tree and the support the top wire gives to the root ball during windy conditions and the establishment of the tree. It has been observed that improper removal of the wire can result in serious damage to the root system which outweighs any benefit received by removal of wire. Proper staking and guying can usually prevent this. It is also understood why most growers and landscape contractors have refused warranties when baskets are removed or cut away. For copies of research documents on the use of wire baskets, contact your local agricultural extension service office or your basket supplier.
Wire baskets were designed to give support to a root ball when harvesting field grown nursery stock. The wire gives strength to the top and sides of the root ball as well as providing a method of lifting materials as opposed to lifting by the trunk. It is thought that lifting the weight of the root ball by the trunk causes needless stress and damage to the tree. It is a fact that whether wire baskets are galvanized or not, the wire could take as long as 20 years to decompose, except those areas of the basket where unions and welds have been made. A recent survey was conducted by Dr. Edward Gilman, University of Florida, to determine what effects wire has on root growth and development when trees are harvested and transplanted with wire baskets on the root ball. The 14 inch caliper trees were planted 12 years ago with four inch to four and one-half inch calipers in 44 inch wire baskets. The survey found the welds holding the basket together had either broken or were to the point of breaking.