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Heading Cuts

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Heading cut
Poorly-attached sprouts from heading cut
Many sprouts growing from a heading cut. Sprouts are growing aggressively several years after heading.

A heading cut reduces the length of a stem or branch back to a point without regard to the position or diameter of nearby lateral branches. Heading cuts include: 1) Cutting a small twig or branch back to a dormant bud. 2) Cutting a larger stem back to a node without an existing lateral branch. A node signifies a dormant bud under the bark typically identified by a slight ridge ringing the stem on smooth barked trees. These can be difficult to see on large branches and on trees with deep bark fissures. 3) Cutting a stem back to a lateral branch that is less than about one-third the diameter of the cut.

A heading cut is made perpendicular to (across) the long axis of a stem, or at a slight angle downward away from the retained bud. The term heading has also been used to describe pinching, shearing, tipping, rounding-over, and topping. Cutting between nodes (an internodal cut) is less desirable because sprouts may emerge from buds some distance behind the cut surface, leaving a dead stub. However, even proper heading cuts back to buds or nodes can result in dead stubs when the nearby buds fail to sprout.

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