News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

February 20, 2014

This year critical to Vigo’s Ash Borer fight

TERRE HAUTE — This year may be the most crucial to use injection chemicals in Vigo County to protect native white and green ash trees from the emerald ash borer, a greenish non-native beetle that feeds on and kills the trees, according to a Purdue University educator.

Terre Haute and Vigo County are now about four years into the cycle of the emerald ash borer, or EAB, which makes more significant the importance of treating ash trees this year — because the number of trees infested doubles every year.

“That means within eight years, 100 percent of untreated ash trees are effected by the EAB,” said Adam Witte, exotic forest pest educator at Purdue University.

Witte spoke Thursday during the third annual Emerald Ash Borer meeting, sponsored by TREES Inc. at the Vigo County Public Library.

Treating ash trees is exactly what Ragle & Co., property managers of The Meadows, plan to do with between 40 and 50 trees on the shopping center’s property.

“All of them, with a couple of exceptions, but virtually 95 percent of the trees here are ash trees,” company president John Ragle said Thursday when contacted at the company’s Terre Haute office.

“We are well aware of the situation and have been looking into preventive treatment options,” he said.

“I think we will likely treat all of them, because the cost to remove them, remove the roots and replant them is substantial,” Ragle said.

The cost of treatment is also substantial, Ragle said, and must be maintained over a course of years. However, arborists tell Ragle it is less expensive to treat the trees than replace them.

Some chemicals used to treat ash trees range from $8 to $10 per inch to treat a tree, Witte said. For a 20-inch diameter tree, that’s $160 to $200.

The ash borer, native to Asia and eastern Russia, most likely was brought into the United States in ash wood that had been used to stabilize crates during shipping. The insect was first discovered in the United States in 2002 near Detroit, Mich.

More information on the ash borer can be found at www.eabindiana.info.

James K. Wilson, who owns a home in East Glenn, near North Chamberlain Street and Old Maple Avenue, has 32 large ash trees, ranging from 20 inches to 30 inches in diameter, on nearly 2 acres.

“They provide excellent shade. You don’t have to worry about the leaves,” Wilson said. “I’d like to save them.”

However, Wilson, who attended the EAB meeting, said he thinks it could cost $12,000 to $15,000 to have someone treat the trees.

“I going to figure out how to do it myself,” Wilson said. “It would cost me about the same to treat them as it would to take them down, maybe more to take them down when you consider the economic factor” as replacement trees would not offer the same shade canopy, he said.

Purdue University offers a one-day treatment course, after those who pass a test can be certified to apply chemicals. Wilson, who retired in 2004 as chief of staff for the Indiana Air National Guard, said he thinks he could save labor costs performing the work himself.

Indiana State University last year started a plan to chemically treat 180 of 450 ash trees on campus. The university is participating in a Slow Ash Mortality or SLAM study with Michigan State University, which requires ISU to save 40 percent of its ash trees, said Stephanie Krull, ISU’s grounds manager and landscape architect.

“We believe … that if we treat 40 percent [of the ash trees], another 20 percent will have their decline slowed greatly, so that will allow us to spread out the removal [of dead ash trees] over several years of budget,” Krull said after the meeting. Krull was also a speaker at the EAB meeting.

“Obviously in a state institution where you are limited by nearly the same budget each year, you have to make a lot of decisions based on costs,” she said.

ISU intended to start the treatment program two years ago, but a drought delayed that plan. “When there is no rain, there is very little uptake of the treatment chemical into the trees, so it is not a good time to treat,” Krull said.

“We were able to save all the best and healthiest ash tress,” Krull said.

ISU has tagged treated trees, and additional tags, from Purdue, are on all the ash trees on campus, Krull said.

“Of course on campus the number one issue is safety, with all the pedestrians walking under the trees and cars parking underneath them,” Krull said. “We have to monitor the trees pretty carefully and remove them if [there are] any signs of a structural hazard.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.

greninger@tribstar.com.

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