What do ideal pruning cuts look like and what problems result from poor pruning cuts?

Answer: Good pruning cuts do not result from bad tools.  Sharp bypass-type pruners used correctly can minimize pruning damage to trees and facilitate proper wound healing.  When possible, branches should be taken out where they attach (i.e., thinning cuts).  Leaving large stubs is undesirable.  Rather, branches should be taken out at the outside edge of the swollen branch collar that occurs at their base.  With the branch collar intact, the wound will heal readily and properly.  Flush cuts that actually remove the branch collar are very damaging to the tree.  These wounds will heal poorly.  As a result, they can result in a persistent wound spot on the tree that is attractive to the female lesser peach tree borer moth that lays eggs on these wounds during the summer months.  Developing lesser peach tree borer caterpillars subsequently bore under the bark and effectively girdle the branches they are associated with.  Girdled branches die and productive fruiting wood is lost.  This will reduce harvestable yield and profit per tree.   

Pruning tools
before pruning
I prefer bypass pruners (in photo) to anvil types (not shown) because they enable clean sharp cuts with minimal bark crushing.
Side branch (on right) that needs to be pruned out prior to pruning.

stub cut

proper collar cut
Side branch cut back to 2-inch stub.  This is undesirable.  It is better to make the pruning cut at the branch collar (swollen area at base shoot where it attaches to the larger branch below). This is the proper cut, made at the swollen collar where the side branch attached to the larger limb.
bad flush cut bad flush cut
This is an improper cut.  Note that the cut actually removed the branch collar altogether.  Flush cuts like this are very difficult to heal. Side view of improper flush cut and resultant bark/wood damage creating significant wound.
lptb wound fuest
lptb larvae
Large scaffold wound from bad pruning cut in previous year.  This is an attractive site for lesser peach tree borer female moths to lay eggs.  Colonization of wounds like this with lesser peach tree borer larvae can cause limbs to be girdled and die. (Photo by J. Fuest, Univ. of Georgia). Larvae and pupal case of lesser peach tree borer under bark of infested wound on a scaffold branch of a peach tree.
scaffold fuest
Lesser peach tree borer entered a wound site on this scaffold limb.  Following colonization and girdling of the limb by the larvae, the limb died. (Photo by J. Fuest, Univ. of Georgia).

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