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I have an apricot tree that is 4 or 5 years old. It is doing well, but one of the main branches has a weak crotch and included bark. My peach tree had the same problem, and got split in a wind storm last year. So I wanted to proactively take care of the problem with the apricot.

The weak crotch can be seen here:

enter image description here

It is the branch on the right side. enter image description here

My question is: Should I prune that branch back heavily to prepare to take it off next pruning season? I think the other branches are now thick enough and developed enough that the shape of the tree won't be hurt too much. Suggestions and comments are welcome.

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Pruning the branch back hard/heavily is about the only thing that will keep the crotch from splitting, aside from guy wiring it to other parts of the tree. For all practical intents, that joint will never get stronger. However, there is no reason to wait until next season. You can remove the branch anytime during the growing season (trees naturally compartmentalize damage by an active biological process; most rapidly when the tree is actively growing). Of course, it would be wise to cut it back hard first, as you've planned, then saw off the branch stump at the trunk. Then you won't split the trunk in the process.

I've read that high levels of cytokinin lead to stronger branches that emerge from the trunk at wider angles. Cytokinins are tree hormones that to some degree reflect the availability of nitrogen. In other words fertilizing may help to prevent new branches from emerging at acute angles like this. But none the newer growth on this tree appears to be like the base of this one particular branch. So, this is just some trivia for now.

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    I agree that branch shows included bark and it will split sooner or later. Remove it, do not put wound paint on the cut, angle the cut so water runs off. Pruning mid summer might reduce the incidence of water sprouts – kevinsky Apr 6 '16 at 21:53
  • If you really don't want to cut it now, at least cut the bottom of the branch about 1/3 rd of the way through, this will allow the branch to break off clean if it does break rather than stripping the bark off half the tree on its way down. – Escoce Apr 7 '16 at 2:46
  • Thanls for the insight and comments. I'll go ahead and take it off, instead of waiting. I definitely don't want it to split and strip bark the whole way down as @Escoce says... – aepound Apr 7 '16 at 13:10

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