Are wire baskets harmful to trees long-term?
Below is Jason's opinion and some cited information to support that.
Wire baskets are exactly what they sound like: a basket made of wire that a tree is secured in after digging. The purpose of these baskets is to support the root ball when harvesting and during transit and also to prevent lifting by the trunk, which can cause unnecessary stress to the tree.
It is common practice when planting a tree in it's forever home to simply leave the basket on. However some concerns have been raised with this method. Many worry that root restriction is an issue as the tree outgrows it's basket, Studies out of University of Florida suggest that this is incorrect. The study suggests trees that have been growing in baskets for years have roots that simply grow around the cage as it rusted away. Also hurricanes and storms studies show trees in a wire basket planted faired better than without. Trees with wire baskets are far less likely to need staking as the basket will hold the tree firmly centered after planting. In windy conditions the trunk of the tree moving back and forth could be detrimental to the success of the tree. Having the root ball solid in tact with basket will help prevent that.
In addition to there being no real reason to remove baskets before planting there are actually more good reasons to leave the basket on. In the last 35 years approximately 40 million trees worldwide have been transplanted in wire baskets with very few issues reported back. In Jason's 20+ years of experience he has never had any issues leaving trees in their baskets for planting. Actually in his opinion taking them off does more harm as most of the time a lot of dirt will fall off the root ball and expose fiber roots to air and shock. A recent study by Dr. Edward Gilman, University of Florida supported the idea of leaving the baskets on when planting. Also Dr. Glen Lumis wrote “Wire Baskets: A Further Look, Research sheds new light on the wirebasket controversy” which was published in American Nurseryman magazine showed roots that grew in and around wire baskets did not effect the tree's longterm success. For more information on this subject and more detailed contact Roots Plus Field Growers Association of Florida.
*Please take the time to research this on your own. I've always said I'm not an expert but can just say my opinion of 20+years in the business. I have cited a few people on here that have great information to read that support the idea of leaving baskets on.*