In many counties of Minnesota, oak wilt is prevalent. It is a nasty disease that can cut down a mighty oak in it's prime. Keeping the fungus at bay takes forethought when doing spring and summer yardwork.
What is Oak Wilt?
Oak wilt is a disease caused by a fungus that destroys the entire central system of the tree from its roots to the tips of its leaves. The tree will try to block the fungus, but in doing so it blocks all water and nutrients to the branches and leaves. Eventually, the tree's leaves will begin to wilt then dry up and the tree will die.
Oak wilt spreads in two ways. It will either be attacked through the root systems of near by trees or by fungus beetles that carry the oak wilt spores from tree to tree. For additional information on oak wilt from the University of MN Extention Service
Here are a few important reminders to prevent the spread of Oak Wilt:
- To prevent the spread of devastating disease, it is imperative to follow the guidelines for oak wilt prevention. Do not prune, damage or cut down oak trees during the spring and summer growing season from May 1 through September 30.
- During the spring and early summer months of May and June, oaks are at especially high risk to this highly contagious disease.
- Any wood or branches taken down over the winter that is infected with oak wilt needs to remain covered under black plastic and completely sealed until after July 1.
- During the summer if you sustain storm damage and lose a limb from an oak on your property, immediately paint the wound with black tree paint to seal the wound and prevent exposure to the oak wilt fungus.
How to Protect Your Trees
- The fungus beetles infect trees that have been recently injured or trimmed. These beetles are very active in the spring and summer months. Oaks should be protected from damage and not trimmed from April through July.
- If an oak tree is damaged during a spring or summer storm, apply tree paint immediately to any wounds that accidentally occur.
- If an oak is infected a nearby neighboring property, your trees could be at risk through their intertwined root system. Oak roots travel up to 50 feet out. The fungus can pass underground from tree to tree. Roots can be cut using a trencher or vibratory plow to prevent the spread of oak wilt. The process uses a five foot blade that severs the roots to protect neighboring trees. Root cutting should be done prior to tree removal.
Ignoring oak wilt only causes the disease to spread. Since it can take decades to grow a beautiful oak shade tree, shouldn't they be protected? A wooded landscape has a direct affect on a property's value.
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