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Cornell Cooperative Extension educates on emerald ash borer

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CANTON — The invasive emerald ash borer has not yet found its way to St. Lawrence County, but experts across the state are preparing municipalities, commercial tree managers, institutions and the public for their arrival and the ensuing destruction of ash trees.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County held a training day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday with experts from Cornell University, National Grid and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“I’m really disappointed we didn’t get more people,” said Paul J. Hetzler, Cornell Cooperative Extension horticulture and natural resources educator. “At some point it is going to be a major, major issue, especially in the north country where we’re dealing with a super-tight budget.”

Ten participants showed up for the series of presentations educating on the ash borer, tree safety and treatment options like pesticides.

Mark C. Whitmore, a forest entomologist in Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources, highlighted several tree treatments including soil injections, trunk injections and basal bark sprays of imidacloprid, emamectin benzoate and dinotefuran insecticides.

“It’s best to wait to use the insecticides until the ash borer gets near you so you’re not treating too far ahead of time,” he said. “The impacts are going to be huge. People have no idea what they’re going to be facing, so the more people that know sooner, the better.”

Mr. Whitmore presented a graph he called the “Death Curve,” showing the pattern of ash tree mortality during the infestation process.

He said it’s best to treat the trees in the first few years of infestation or the mortality rate will increase beyond what may be manageable for any one municipality to handle.

After the small, shiny green beetle infects a tree, the tree can be hazardous within 12 months and collapse unexpectedly, according to Mr. Hetzler.

Brian C. Skinner, a senior arborist for National Grid, talked to the group about the danger infected trees can pose.

“It’s not just going to be the little trees, but it will be big trees too, and hopefully, they won’t have property or people under them if and when they fall,” he said. “They can start falling unpredictably.”

Mr. Skinner encouraged people to get their ash trees taken down after infection, but before the trees die, because ash trees that have been killed by the emerald ash borer can collapse while they are being cut down.

He said that wind or ice storms in the north country will have much more damage once the ash borer makes its way to St. Lawrence County. Infected trees will not be able to withstand high winds or the weight of ice.

“You need to know exactly what your exposure is, what ash trees you have, where are they and do they threaten infrastructure,” Mr. Whitmore said. “And you have to develop priorities for their management. Schoolyards and sidewalks are probably some of those priorities.”

He said that once a municipality, institution or homeowner collects information on where ash trees are and what the threat is once they become infected, they have to “think about treating them or taking them down.”

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