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Removing suckers at the base of trees during shemitah

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There are suckers that often sprout at the base of tree trunks, especially common with olive and pomegranate trees. They ruin the trees' aesthetics. Can I remove them during shemitah? What about citrus trees? Does it make a difference if the growths are from below the graft line?


Rabbi Moshe Bloom

Photo: Daniel Hyman

Removing suckers during shemitah is problematic. Suckers should not be removed lechatchilah. If there is a pressing need, however, they may be removed with a shinuy: (1) changing the instrument with which pruning is performed – such as manually or with a hoe instead of with pruning shears and (2) not clipping them too close to the trunk (leaving several dozen cm of the growth). It is best to do both, but if difficult, the second type of shinuy is sufficient. In cases where suckers could significantly damage the tree, it is possible to be lenient. The above applies to any type of tree, regardless of whether or not the growth is above or below the graft line.