February 22, 2018

Christmas tree IPM update 2.22.18

I hope you are all sitting with your feet up – briefly – until the scouting etc. season starts.

Or maybe now you are ready to get out there and get started for this year. The weather at the beginning of the week might have helped. But it was also warm enough that ticks were out questing. NYS IPM’s Joellen Lampman posted on our blog with lots of useful tick information

It’s also time to start planning . . .
WPS training requirements have changed. Be sure you know what is required in terms of who can do the training and how it must be presented. Lots of resources are available from the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative including the appropriate training videos

Don’t forget to sign up for Branching Out  There’s a clickable subscription form and more information.

And you can contact Sarah Pickel to get on her scouting email list from PA at c-sapickel@pa.gov (Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture | Bureau of Plant Industry, 2301 North Cameron Street | Hbg PA 17110, Phone: 717.772.5227 | Fax: 717.705.6518)

We are planning, too. Brian and Amara have been planning our new Christmas tree and beneficial insect habitat demonstration trials. They got the soil samples before the snow started again.

 

January 15, 2018

Christmas tree IPM update 1.14.18

Those warm spells probably aren’t that good for the plants, but oh, I do enjoy them!

We are doing a survey at the CTFANY meeting this year on tick borne diseases and exotic Christmas tree species. If you won’t have a chance to fill it out at the meeting, you can do it here.

I’ve had a couple of questions that relate to DEC matters – pesticide choice and pesticide recertification credits.
I’ll do the easy one first. There are very few instances where credits from another state are allowed for recertification of NYS pesticide licenses. The organizers of the events have to register them with NYS DEC and meet all the specs so it doesn’t happen often. If you can’t find the event on NYSPAD it won’t count – except for making you smarter!

Which reminds me of another question… it rarely makes sense to add another private pesticide category even if you add new crops. DEC says “Applicants should choose the category based on their primary crop, it is not necessary to hold additional categories within the Ag Production series (21-25)”. If you decide to do aquatic pest control, for example, that’s another story.

Now back to the hard question – what to do about pesticide applications in mixed species Christmas tree plantations? Of course, you don’t want to spray anything that would damage any of the species – blue spruce comes up a lot here as some pesticides will take the blue off the needles. But even if the pesticides are all ‘safe’ for the species, the law says that the host and the pest must both be on the label for you to apply that compound to those trees. And finding information on the label – and understanding it – can require you to be quite a sleuth.

I often resort to pulling up the label in NYSPAD ( a different part of it) and using the search button on the computer to look for key words.

Some labels use ‘conifers’, some use ‘Christmas trees’ and probably some use the exact species. Some specify where the trees can be – Christmas tree nursery beds, production plantations, tree seed orchards, etc. Some include the species with the insect or disease and others just list the disease or insect. But you have to find both the host and the pest on the label to use the pesticide.

This is one reason that single species fields are easier to deal with.

There’s more helpful information on which pesticides to use for what and what’s allowed – AND lots of IPM information to reduce your need for pesticides – in the Cornell Guidelines and the 2018 “Tree and Shrub Guidelines” are almost ready!

This is a good time to plan for the insect and disease pests that you usually have, check your pesticide list, and read those labels. Put your feet up first – it might help.

January 7, 2018

Christmas tree IPM Update 1.7.18

My good intentions for 2018? To get these updates out more regularly…. Unless there are NO pest issues, of course!

How was the season? How many customers mentioned the press on the thousands of microscopic insects supposedly infesting all the trees? Definitely an education for me on how inaccurate information can travel with the speed of a click!

Coming soon – the Christmas Tree Farmers’ Association of NY annual winter meeting in Syracuse, January 18-20. Lots of good information – and please visit the IPM table in the vendor area!

Michigan State is holding a Sustainable Nursery and Christmas Tree Production Webinar Series starting Jan 31. The webinars are $15 each or $40 for the series and will be recorded.

Now is a good time to get signed up for scouting reports and to learn how to find growing degree day (GDD) information on NEWA! Click the links for information!

Branching Out

Sarah Pickel’s PA Christmas Tree Scouting Report – contact her directly at c-sapickel@pa.gov

UMass Extension Landscape Message

NEWA GDD

 

We’ve got some projects coming along that relate to Christmas trees and nursery growers so I’ll keep you posted as they progress!

I hope you are all dug out and warmer than the last few days! Have a great week!

June 13, 2017

Christmas tree IPM update 6.13.17

How did it get to be June?  No idea but it is, and it’s gorgeous out!  Will that help me get back in the swing of IPM updates – hmmmmm.

Feeling your pain – I cleaned out around my trees – miles of bedstraw and lots of goldenrod.  OK, it’s only 6 trees so I was only feeling a small amount of your pain, but the real pain that we all want to avoid is Lyme disease.  So this is really about ticks.  The perimeter area between woods and fields where the grass (and weeds) get tall is a danger zone.  That’s what we showed in our tick project last fall on Christmas tree plantations – and that’s where I was pulling weeds.  5 deer tick nymphs was the total I removed (an exercise in flexibility) – and they are the size of poppy seeds.  So be careful, do tick checks and let’s avoid the pain of tick borne diseases.  A great resource – Tick Encounter.

Paul Hetzer writes wonderful articles for the Adirondack Almanac.  I’ve attached one (below) called Handkerchiefs and Helicopters – about stress in trees, which can apply to Christmas trees in some regards, too.

An interesting answer on dew and pesticide spraying from Dan Gilrein – The answer really depends upon a couple of things. Dew can help with spreading, esp. if growers are using a mist blower or some other low-volume equipment. It can help in general if the gallonage (per acre amount of water applied) is very low and  trees have some size and lots of foliage. If the application is high-gallonage, say, with a gun, and gets the foliage very wet anyway then  best to wait until foliage is dry. Including a wetting agent in the mix can also affect performance.  In tree fruit, for example, mist blowers are used and growers sometimes include a wetting agent to move the material around better on the leaf. One can overdo it on the wetting agent rate, such that there is too much runoff. Most miticides and many fungicides benefit from higher gallonage and better coverage. So using the dew to help that with low-vol. application equipment – while avoiding excess runoff  – may not be a bad idea.  See, we do answer questions we get!

I’m late on this one – Weir’s cushion rust on Colorado blue spruce – Michigan State even links to Cornell’s page

Happy scouting out there (you are, right?) – watch the heat and the bugs – and see you pretty soon at the CTFANY meeting.

 

Helicopters and Handkerchiefs: Signs of Stress

Paul Hetzler

Here is a forecast the entire region can bank on: this spring will be characterized by pollen storms, and in a related development, it will rain helicopters this summer. Don’t panic—it has nothing to do with aircraft. It has everything to do with stress.

Short-term, moderate stress—for example an article deadline—can be a positive force because it pushes one to act. However, we have all heard about the ill health effects of undue stress: weight gain, increased risk of stroke and heart attack, difficulty concentrating, and more. We also know that other animals respond to pressure in many of the same ways humans do (although they are seldom motivated enough to meet writing deadlines).

But if you have ever wondered what stress does to trees, well, you’re in the minority, that’s for sure. This spring, though, we are all experiencing the results of tree stress in the form of high pollen loads. Most trees are wind-pollinated, which means their flowers are drab, because they merely have to attract the wind, which is way easier than attracting bees, something that requires nectar and bright colors and stuff. It also means their pollen is light, and travels far and wide. Even though it is barely noticeable, many willows, elms, maples, and poplars are in flower right now, and unless it is unusually rainy over the next few weeks, we will be breathing a lot more tree pollen than in most years.

Obviously, trees do their reproductive thing on a regular basis, or they wouldn’t still be here. Trees like willow and poplar flower every year. Others such as maple, oak and beech may produce few if any flowers for one or more years, followed by a “mast year” in which they bear a heavy seed crop. While mast years may occur once every two to seven years, 2017 is a much more uncommon situation.

This year, many hardwoods are pushing out flowers far in excess of any mast year. Heavy seed production following severe stress, known as a distress crop, is well-documented in forest stands under significant threat by pests, diseases or drought. It appears to be a bid to keep the species going at the expense of the current generation of trees. Sugar maples in particular are bearing a distress crop, something we do not generally see in the Northeast.

It is in the middle of the growing season that trees “choose,” based on how much energy they have squirreled away in the form of stored starch, how many flower buds will bloom the following year. In other words, the relative abundance of flower buds reflects the conditions of the previous summer. This makes perfect sense: a tree makes only as many seeds as its energy budget will allow. During a year with plenty of moisture and sun, it will set loads of flower buds, and in a dry year, not so many.

There is an exception to this pattern, however. A distress crop is different in that the accounting department is left out of the loop. If conditions are stressful to the point that a tree’s very survival is threatened, it gets triggered to release stored food reserves to make an ultra-heavy seed crop, even if it needs those reserves to survive the next year.

Forester Michael Snyder, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, explains it further in a 2011 article in Northern Woodlands magazine:

“Now why would a stressed tree add stress by running down its reserves that could otherwise be used for growth or to recover from the original stress? …trees need to produce seed to pass along their genes and perpetuate their kind. This is the biological imperative. It is so important that heavy seed production may be triggered in some trees as a reaction to significant, threatening stress…and they react to impending doom by shifting their precious and hard-won resources away from their own growth and focus on the next generation.”

The last time we saw a distress crop was in 2013, following the unprecedented (in terms of low soil moisture) drought of 2012. Sadly, 2016 was even worse, with soil moisture at record lows in many parts of NY State, including portions of St. Lawrence and Jefferson Counties. On sites with thin soil, the effect was that much more severe. This is not to say we will lose maples and other trees showing distress crops this year, but it does indicate they are under tremendous stress, and will be more vulnerable to secondary agents such as pathogens and insects.

In 2013, we saw the spent flowers drop from sugar maples in such quantities that they filled gutters, and even clogged storm drains in some villages, leading to temporary road flooding. The mass of flowers that slid from my roof into the rain barrel in May 2013 reminded me of clots of seaweed washed up on a beach after a storm. Very likely we will have a similar performance again this year.

Again, barring a very rainy spell during maple pollination, there will be a shameless excess of helicopters this summer. For several reasons, maple seeds are of particular interest. I guess it is their aerodynamics that grab my attention. Known to botany geeks as samaras, maple seeds have a broad wing that makes them spin, helicopter-like, as they fall, prolonging their flight and allowing them to travel some distance.

In most cases it’s a one-way flight, although many children, mine included, go through a phase where they’ll scoop handfuls of these winged seeds—along with the requisite amount of dirt—and fling them aloft, delighted with their helicopters. But maybe there’s an app for that now.

In addition to the imported Norway maple, we have four native species of large maples—sugar, red, silver, and boxelder (surprise, that’s a maple)—and several understory maples as well. All of these produce helicopter seeds. One of the side effects of tree seeds is, well, baby trees. Next spring should be fun as the maple seeds germinate and a Lilliputian maple forest sprouts everywhere.

Don’t be alarmed if your maple tree browns up a bit later in the spring; that is just from the seeds maturing and drying out. Then, move over Sikorsky: it’s going to rain helicopters in northern NY. Before you break out the shop-vac and power broom, though, I recommend you get out with the kids in the non-virtual world and get a few helicopters in your hair.

March 10, 2017

Christmas tree IPM update 3.10.17

Snow 🙁   Sun 🙂   Just like life, we are getting some of each!  Pretty philosophical for a Friday afternoon!

MSU has the NEW third edition of the USDA Christmas Tree Pest Manual for sale
I’ll let you know if I figure out why theirs is $5 and Amazon has it for $29.
The previous edition is a wonderful resource and I suspect this will be, too.  I ordered mine today!

While you are there, check out their IPM Pocket Guide for Weed ID in Christmas Trees.

So – what do growing degree days mean for insect pest development in a year like this?  I’ve got that question out to some entomologists.  Do we use January 1 or March 1 as a baseline date?  This year, both would tell you you could be spraying for white pine weevil now.  Does that make sense with the temperature still bouncing around?  I don’t think so.  But you might want to be ready as soon as the weather smooths out a bit (it is spring and variation is what we expect after all).  Do I know for sure?  Nope!  But I’ll let you know what I find out.

Questions, comments, information you need?  Let me know!

February 15, 2017

Christmas tree IPM update 2.15.17

Hooray for snow!  Not too much at a time and not too cold works for me!  And we need the water to get us out of drought conditions.

So this doesn’t seem very ‘IPMy’ but production factors make a difference in pest management.  More bugs and diseases next time!  Promise!

How to keep your trees happy and green? Michigan State just put out 2 articles on fertilizer sources:
Part 1 and Part 2

They also reference a U Minnesota (Go, Gophers!) article on the nitrogen cycle in soil

And Rutgers has a nice article on Soil Fertility Recommendations for Christmas Trees  with information on when to apply nitrogen.  They recommend 3 weeks before bud break but also discuss using a split application of spring and fall applications.  I must admit, I favor a split application for risk avoidance in case the weather at one season is not helpful.

So how does one calculate 3 weeks before bud break?  We haven’t found any calculators yet.  I’ve looked for information on temperature or other conditions that might help but haven’t found what I was looking for yet.  So it is up to you and your experience!

You can still register for the webinar series on Christmas tree genetics and Tree Improvement.
They have been quite interesting.  If you register, they will send you the recorded webinars even if you can’t attend.  Here are links for the first two.

Feb. 1 webinar, “The Tree Improvement Process: Selection, Testing, & Breeding,”

Feb. 8 webinar: “Capturing Genetic Gains: Seed Collection Zones & Seed Orchards,”

I love getting responses to my emails.  The information on costs for producing an acre of trees caused at least a few of you to 1) laugh hysterically, 2) shake your heads in disbelief or 3) send me a response.  Jon Freckleton is willing to let me reprint his here and I am doing it because I think it brings out a lot of information – especially for new growers – that is really important.  It makes the point that real growers are a resource that should not be ignored and that the ability to balance all these factors is an incredible skill!  And, regardless of the frustrated tone, Jon loves growing and selling trees!  So thanks for helping those of us in research and extension to get a real world view.  This might actually lead to a grant and some locally produced information!

I reviewed the attachments and the persons writing them must be on drugs!  Seven to ten year cycles are ridiculous and selling 5′, 6′ and 7’max trees is a dream that will not come true!  All have time and expense of monitoring but then lack the hours to call IPM, show to IPM, buy and apply spray, or cut out bad trees!  They are all growing in the land of milk and honey.  None have an “oh *&%$#” late frost that kills a years growth! All show constant dollars!  Where is real world inflation?  Where is liability insurance? Repair tools?  All imply accuracy to either the penny, or the dollar!  None reflect the real world repairs, dealing with nests of yellow jackets, woodchucks, deer, etc.  None show time to drive for parts, supplies, Urgent Care, IPM and grower schools.  None show cost of Grower Organization membership.  None show time and expense of applicator license, etc.  None show office mgt time, and tax prep time.  None show time to market trees, time with buyers marking trees, and to carry trees that haven’t sold.  None show winterizing and storing equipment, etc etc.  None show serious rain gear and gloves, none show safety equipment: chain saw gloves, chaps, helmet, shoes and boots.  None show Comp Ins, and other insurance and permits to legally hire help; nor a discussion of the risks of hiring “under-the-table” help we are forced into at small farms.

1- WP article: costs too low
2- PA article: very good write up at start; costs to the penny imply accuracy to the penny!!  Costs do NOT reflect minimum quantity of material that can be purchased; repair costs way too low and lacks repair hours, where is the machinery the fuel is burned in?
3- Oregon: 90% 6-7!? market wants 8+; 1500/ac!!  must have roads; Repair on tractor @ $.5 & truck @ $.15; while backpack @ $2.14, elev at $12, and baler @ $18????  Tractor and trk way too low (in 40+ yrs my only back pack repair was a lost tip); need insurance on shop: five years to 6-7′ Gr 1???  No mowing? Again implied accuracy to a penny!!  Assumes market to sell all trees at 6-7′ at decent price!!
4- Kentucky: starts great and then: again no roads with 1200/ac, again done in 7 yrs, too much machinery that is only used once and the prices shown are for very used equipment so there needs to be money in tools and parts.  Fifth year pruning with sale sized trees in 16hr?? coloring with a 4g backpack in 4 hr!!  All mowing with a tractor with 3.5′ bush hog in full sized trees!!  and selling 6-7′ in five years, won’t happen since that bush hog is going to ruin lower branches (especially at 6×6 planting) selling 5′ & 6′ trees!!!??? demand is 8 – 10 and up.  again no repair hours.

Have a great week!