Protect Ash Trees from Deadly Pest

In this article from Parade Magazine, readers learn about new emerald ash borer detection research conducted by Anand Persad, manager of plant sciences research for the Davey Institute.

Posted: Sept. 14, 2015

By: Julie Bawden-Davis 

Watching a tree in your landscape deteriorate and die is heartbreaking—especially if the tree has become a cherished fixture in your yard. This scenario is all too common when the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) attacks.

One of the most destructive forest pests ever discovered in North America, EAB (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) is a highly invasive beetle native to Asia. Originally discovered in Michigan near Detroit in 2002, this small, metallic green pest has killed tens of millions of ash trees in many states, leaving entire city treescapes destroyed. The adult beetle doesn’t do much damage eating ash foliage, but its larvae decimate trees by feeding just under the bark and disrupting the tree’s flow of water and nutrients.

Until recently, there wasn’t much that could be done to prevent ash trees from dying once hit by EAB. Thanks to pioneering research done by the Davey Tree Expert Company, there’s now a way to detect the condition much earlier. When the infestation is detected and treated within the first year, ash trees often can be saved.

This is good news for the nation’s seven billion ash trees that are potentially at risk if not treated, says Anand Persad, PhD., manager of arboriculture and plant sciences for the Davey Tree Expert Company. He directed a research study of 700 ash trees in Ohio that took place from 2008-2012. Persad found that infected trees break at the top of the tree first, but this is difficult to see from the ground and at that point the trees appear to otherwise be healthy. By the time it’s clear they’re sick, which is usually after two to three years of infestation, it’s often too late to save them.

The initial means of detecting EAB relied on seeing a thinning canopy and exit holes from the trunk created when the larvae become beetles and fly off. Persad’s research uncovered earlier signs. Whereas when healthy tree limbs break, it occurs close to the trunk; trees infected by EAB have branches that break midway. Early diagnosis can be made by looking for telltale cracks in these areas, especially after stormy weather.

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