City Foresters Cut Down Infected Elm Trees - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

City Foresters Cut Down Infected Elm Trees

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Dutch Elm Disease travels fast and is tough to prevent.

"By the time we see the damage, it has to be removed," says city forester Bruce Johnson.

The Forestry Department has now identified ten infected trees in city limits, down from 33 one year ago. To keep the disease from spreading, infected trees need to be cut down as quickly as possible.

"Once we see a tree that's infected, we like to get rid of it," said Johnson. "We clean it up and haul the diseased wood to the landfill so it can be buried. That way the bugs won't fly out and re-infect other trees."

The disease is spread two ways:  from intertwined root systems, or from bark beetles, who travel between neighboring trees.

"The fungus dislodges, and it gets into the vascular system and what happens is the tree just dries up," says Johnson.

In a sense, the tree kills itself by plugging up its xylem tissue. That blocks water from reaching the top of the tree, turning leaves yellow. The disease can be prevented, but the methods are costly. 

"It can be prevented by certain insecticidal sprays, but that gets to be pretty expensive," says Johnson. "Homeowners can do that, but the city doesn't have that ability."

Instead, Johnson and his staff must continue cutting down infected trees before the disease can spread. It's still too early to tell how many will be infected this summer, but he's rooting for a low number. 

"I hope this is it, just kind of a wait and see kind of thing."

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