From the President
Meeting the Challenge of Oak Wilt
The official New York State Arbor Day Celebration was held this year amid the northern red oaks (Quercus rubra
) at the north end of the Empire State Plaza. The red oaks were adorned with tree tags that listed the benefits each tree provides in energy savings, cleaner air, reduced stormwater runoff, and other ecosystem services.
If we lost all those trees, we know what the cost would be. We would also lose the sense of place the trees help provide for this popular lunchtime destination for tourists and downtown workers. Sadly, the loss of these red oaks is a very real threat.
Oak wilt is an oak killer that has recently been identified in New York State. It was discovered in Schenectady County in 2008; the next year, 73 trees that were infected or in danger of being infected were destroyed. Unfortunately this first attempt to eradicate oak wilt failed and last year more trees were found to be infected. The NYSDEC is optimistic that this outlying infestation in New York can be eliminated, but vigilance is necessary.
When the Society of Municipal Arborists met last year in Pittsburgh we toured Schenley Park, the biggest and oldest park in the city. Schenley is known for its huge old red oaks, but oak wilt has hit hard there recently. These large, mature red oaks that have thrived for many decades can succumb to oak wilt in a season. Trees in the white oak group can survive oak wilt for years, but those in the red oak group can die within weeks. We saw diseased trees, recently cut stumps (see photo below), and root-zone trenching to prevent the spread of the disease by root grafts.
The New York State Urban Forestry Council advocates for funding to combat invasive forest threats like oak wilt. One way we do that is by participating in Forestry Awareness Day in the state capital with our fellows in the Council of Forest Resource Organizations (CFRO). Recently we were asked to support funding for Cornell’s Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab to survey for oak wilt and to process samples for identification. Our Council and the DEC have promoted the use of the i-Tree utility for early pest detection (IPED) when performing tree inventories. This is a way to potentially find diseases like oak wilt while they are still manageable. (See April president’s message for more about IPED.)
Many invasive pests and diseases can be managed or even eradicated if discovered early enough. We need to be vigilant and resolute in protecting our forests. —Andy Hillman, Andrew.Hillman@Davey.com