As we get started into the new year, it is time to start thinking about what we have to look forward to with regard to tree protection. If you live in Texas, then you know that the past year has brought us heavy rains, drought conditions and new insect infestations. I will break down what to look in your trees this year. Of course, Oak wilt is going to be the most important disease to prepare for. With the inclement weather and the record rain totals, you can be sure the Oak wilt fungus will spread rapidly as it did in 2016. When oaks put on new leaves this Spring be sure to pay close attention to the leaf development. There can be different signs that may indicate infection. I have a Live oak that was infected in the Spring of 2016 and showed veinal necrosis that Summer. In 2017, the tree showed no VN but did start dropping leaves from the top of the canopy throughout the year. So, it is important to inspect your trees and have a professional diagnose it if you aren’t sure. If you have Red oaks, be sure you are treating preventatively. Once Red oaks are infected, it is fatal. Live oaks will start dropping leaves around March and new growth will occur through April. I recommend treating Live oaks at the beginning of May once the new leaf has hardened off, whether preventatively or therapeutically.
Another fungal pathogen is Phytophthora. It is a soil born fungus that is drawn in through the root system of a tree or plant. In oaks it can often imitate the leaf signs of Oak wilt but the treatment is completely different. I have a group of Lacy (White) oaks that got double whammied a few years ago and through us off. It took a lab sample to confirm the trees had both diseases. Phytophthora Root Rot can kill ANY tree it infects if not treated and can live in slightly moist soil for several months to years. I have had more cases of PRR this year and it doesn’t look like it will get any better this year.
Insect infestations are becoming more abundant as well with all the excess rain we got last year. Boring insects are making their way throughout the state with the Emerald Ash Borer being the most invasive and devastating insect to be introduced in Texas. At this time it has been found in 4 counties in NE Texas and it won’t be long before it turns up in Central and South Texas. The Nitidulid beetle is also going to be out in force,I suspect. I fully expect there to be a high number of fungal mats in dead Red oaks this year and the beetle population to be on the rise. I believe this to be true due to the fact that there are acres and acres of untouched land where Red oaks have succumbed to Oak wilt and have not been removed. So make sure you are checking your oaks after storms or high winds for broken branches throughout the Spring, Summer and early Autumn months. DO NOT HAVE OAKS PRUNED DURING THIS TIME-EVER!
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