Central Texas has just suffered from an ice storm that damaged many of our majestic oak trees, and as residents begin to assess the damage, it is crucial to be aware of another threat to trees in the area: oak wilt. This fungal disease can impact entire communities and cause significant harm to the aesthetics, property values, and the expense of managing infected trees. In this article, we will discuss what oak wilt is, how it spreads, how to recognize it, how to reduce the risk of infection, and how to manage it.
Oak Wilt Spreads
Oak wilt can spread above ground by beetles that feed on infected red oaks and carry the fungal fragments to uninfected trees through fresh wounds or pruning cuts. It can also spread below ground through an interconnected root system, potentially infecting trees as far as 200 feet apart.
Recognizing Oak Wilt
Oak wilt can be identified by the defoliation and death of oak trees that expand from a central location. Live oaks typically defoliate and die in 3-6 months, while red oaks may die in just 4-6 weeks. The most characteristic symptom of oak wilt is yellow and brown leaf veins in live oaks, known as veinal necrosis. Sweet-smelling fungal mats may form under the bark of dead red oaks in the spring. Laboratory isolation of the fungus is recommended to confirm the diagnosis, and when in doubt, a trained expert should be consulted.
Reducing the Risk of Oak Wilt
To reduce the risk of oak wilt, it is recommended to avoid pruning oak trees from February 1 to June 30. When pruning, make proper cuts and immediately paint all wounds, scratches, and stumps. Infected red oaks should not be stored for firewood use.
Making a Pole Paint Sprayer for Sealing Tree Wounds and Fresh Cuts
A pole paint sprayer is a handy tool for homeowners and landscapers to prevent oak wilt from infecting oak trees. The tool is used to paint cuts and wounds on oak trees to prevent the Nitidulid beetle from infecting the tree with oak wilt. The tree can be infected within 15 minutes of cutting or wounding, so it is vital to paint cuts immediately. To make this sprayer, you will need a hinge, hinge screws, an adjustable hose clamp, a piece of nylon rope, and an extension pole.
The assembly process is simple and quick, costing approximately $15. To assemble, you will attach the hinge and the hose clamp to the extension pole using the hinge screws. You will then cut a piece of rope 5’-6’ long and burn the ends to prevent ravel. Loop the rope through the distal end of the upper part of the hinge and tie a knot. Next, insert a can of spray paint into the hose clamp, adjust it to the appropriate height, and tighten the hose clamp with a screwdriver to secure the can. Finally, pull the rope to paint cuts and help prevent oak wilt.
It is important to remember to disinfect trimming tools with 70% alcohol between trees to prevent the spread of oak wilt. Additionally, transporting the sprayer with a cap on the can is recommended, and testing the sprayer outside before use is advisable. Using the pole paint sprayer, you can effectively prevent oak wilt and protect the health and value of your oak trees.
Managing Oak Wilt
It is crucial to prevent new infections by following the above steps to manage oak wilt. Landscapes can be made more resilient by planting diverse tree species, and trees that are affected or at risk should be consulted with an Oak Wilt Qualified Arborist. Trenching at least 4 feet deep and 100 feet away from trees with symptoms is recommended to stop the spread of oak wilt through tree roots. High-value trees can be preserved with propiconazole fungicide injections, though fungicide does not stop root transmission of the disease. Infected red oaks should be burned, buried, or chipped, and communication with neighbors is important to monitor the infection area.
In conclusion, oak wilt is a serious threat to Central Texas trees, and residents should know its symptoms and how to prevent and manage it. By taking the steps outlined in this article, residents can help reduce the spread of oak wilt and preserve the beauty and value of their communities.