December 19, 2016

Christmas Tree IPM Update 12.19.16

Ah, the end is near – of selling trees, and the year 2016 – and for me, of the days getting shorter!  As the sun sinks below the buildings outside my window at 4:15….
I’ve heard the selling has been good and I hope that is true for all.

And to get ready for one of the presentations at the CTFANY Annual Winter meeting – or just to help you think of warmer days – an article from MSU on attracting pollinators.

It’s hard to compact frozen soil but once things start to melt, it’s easy (not that I think we should have spring quite yet).  MSU also has information on protecting tree roots from compaction – although it is aimed at a landscape audience it has good information.

A short one this time, but long enough for the season.  Perhaps I will actually get my tree set up this evening! Pretty early for me!

 

Another article from Paul Hetzler – this one on the Yule Log tradition!

Yule Logs

Paul Hetzler

Apparently, the ceremonial burning of a large chunk of wood on or near the winter solstice (Yule to the old Germanic peoples) may have begun as a Nordic custom in the 6th century, possibly earlier. Known as a Yule clog, Yule block, Christmas log and other variants, the Yule log was purported to bring good luck in the new year if it burned all day long without being fully consumed. A remnant was always saved, and used to light the following year’s log. Though the tradition is much less common today, it has not been completely extinguished.

Given the climate there, it is no surprise that the hardy folks in northern Europe thought the best way to observe a winter holiday was to light a tree trunk on fire and gather round it. That’s probably what I would have done, too. The French, on the other hand, put a whole new twist on the thing, inventing a delicious Yule log cake that they never burn, at least not intentionally. It took them a dozen or so centuries to come up with the recipe, but let’s not complain. You don’t have to go to France to taste the bûche de Noël—in Quebec you can find Yule logs that are works of art in addition to being delectable.

Popularly depicted as a birch log, to have a Yule log burn all day and still get leftovers, you might want another kind of wood. While birch is picturesque, it doesn’t compare with many other hardwoods in terms of the heat it gives off and how long it burns. All people are created with equal value, but with logs, not so much.

Heat value, whether it’s from coal, oil or wood, is measured in BTUs, or British thermal units. One BTU represents the energy required to heat a pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. And even though the U.S. is the only country on the planet not on the metric system, many other nations still use our BTU scale.

Firewood is usually hardwood, though that’s kind of a misnomer. Some “hardwoods” are softer than many types of softwood. Basswood and cottonwood, for example, have a BTU per (dry) cord rating of around 12 million, lower than that of white pine (16 million) or balsam (20 million).

As those who heat with wood know, hard (sugar) maple is the gold standard for firewood, at least in northern New England, releasing a whopping 30 million BTUs per cord. You’d have to burn twice as much butternut or aspen to get the same heat value. Hickory, beech, black locust, white oak and ironwood (hop hornbeam) come in just behind hard maple. The iconic paper birch has about 20 million BTUs per cord, respectable but not a premium fuel. Especially if you are banking a year’s wort of luck on having it last all day.

Of course there are other considerations besides BTU value in choosing firewood. Even though balsam heats better than butternut, it makes more creosote and throws a lot of sparks. Wood moisture content is also critical. When you burn wet wood, much of the wood’s heat value goes into boiling off the water. Fresh-cut elm is 70 percent water by weight; you’d get very little heat from that, assuming you could even keep it lit. Outdoor furnaces, because they have a blower, are capable of burning green wood. This might be seen as a convenience, but if you burn unseasoned wood in an outdoor furnace you’re spending twice as much time, doing twice the work compared to burning dry wood—how’s your back these days, anyway?

In the Balkans and parts of southern Europe the Yule log tradition lives on. If you’re one of the few Americans who will be burning an actual Yule log in an open hearth this year, you probably have a good chunk of dry hard maple or hickory set aside, plus a remnant of last year’s log with which to help light it.

But if that’s not your tradition, you can join millions of Americans who tune into the televised Yule Log Program on Christmas, now on the Web of course. That log apparently not only burns all day, but has done so since the program’s inception way back in 1967. I’m sure the Department of Energy is working to find what species of tree it’s from, because with just a few of those trees we could solve a lot of our energy problems.

May your holiday season be healthy and happy, and may your Yule log burn only if that is your plan.

August 26, 2016

Christmas tree IPM Update 8.26.16

Students are back but I’m still on summer time.  I even tried stand up paddle boarding and have the bruises to show for it.

No, no, no, no – it isn’t fall yet for me.  But there are some fall things you could do – like fertilize!  And I know that many Christmas tree growers don’t fertilize at all – but is it based on facts?  Like a soil test?  So read about fertilizing in the fall here, and how to get your soil tested here and here.

Cushions sound comfy but not this kind – Weir’s cushion rust.  And we are hearing about it more this year than before – orange blisters on blue spruce needles (do they need more problems?)  If you’ve seen it this summer, remember to treat those trees next spring.  Another reason for record keeping!

Doug fir needle midge vs. Cooley spruce gall adelgid.  They probably won’t make a movie of it but we did have a discussion on telling the two apart.  I don’t think I have seen much needle bending and yellowing from Cooley’s on Doug fir without the white fluff, but it is possible.  Here’s what Rayanne Lehman from the PA Dept of Ag says:
To distinguish between midge damage and adelgids damage, look for the cast skins of the adelgids at the needle bend. Again, the galled needle will appear swollen if viewed from the side. In late winter and early spring, these galls will also have the emergence hole on the under side of the needle.

I’m going to have to put a trap out to see if we can catch the adults next spring.

Heat accumulation – yes, indeed, this summer.  Track it for pest management with Growing degree days.  We like the NYS IPM NEWA page (look under Weather Data) because it has tables, charts and a degree day forecast.  But this page from Utah has a good description of how to do it yourself.

You’ve seen this along the roads, I bet – Dieback on eastern white pine.  If you grow white pines, keep an eye out.

Enjoy the weather now that we’ve had some rain!  Have a great week!

July 12, 2016

Christmas tree IPM update 7.11.16

Ah, education season – again?! Juggling conferences is so much fun – as long as I remember which one I am talking about.

And relative to the Hudson Valley Twilight, we were discussing beetles and their raster patterns.  Sound interesting?  Well, looking at the back end of a grub can tell you who is feeding on your tree roots.  Brian found one on the farm and learned that grubs bite – how else did he think they were chewing up those roots!

An interesting question came in from a new grower, so I come to you, the experts.  Do you shear differently in a drought year?  The thought was not to remove so much of the branches if it would stress the trees.  I can come up with a physiological reason that removing more means less tissue to have to find water for.  But what is the REAL answer?  Let me know.

I get questions occasionally about changing from one DEC pesticide category to another when what growers are producing changes.  I found this website on a random ramble around the DEC webpages (isn’t that what you think I do when I am sitting in my office?) – Adding or dropping a category

Brian and I will be heading west to the CTFANY summer meeting on Thursday – Saturday.  We’ll have a table in the vendor area so bring us your questions (in sealed bags to protect the farm – but not so hot they turn to mush)

April 5, 2016

Christmas tree IPM update 4.4.16

Snow? Of course.  But it is supposed to leave more quickly and then not come back.  Must have forgotten to put in my order for spring weather.  Does it give you a break or goof up your planting plans?

It must be spring!  The first issue of Branching Out is out. Want to know how to get NY based scouting help for your trees (and nursery crops, too)?  Here you go!   A few things this issue covers – Weir’s cushion rust and elongate hemlock scale.

The question we have been asking about blue spruce – Is it needle cast disease or something else? From the Ontario nursery crops blog.

And do you know what eriophyid mite damage looks like?  Another reason needles might be falling off of a variety of conifers. They like it cool so scout now (once the snow is off the needles) – but remember they are VERY small. (Already reported in the 3/24 PA Christmas Tree Scouting report)

Not so sweet if it is in your fields.  Honeysuckle breaks bud early which can help identify it for control.

What’s in your crystal ball?  MD has a new pest prediction calendar.  The Tree and Shrub guidelines have more species, but this has phenology information for some weeds and wildflowers, which might be right there on your farm.

Coming soon?  Depending on our weather of course.  Balsam twig aphids nymphs.  Do a tap test of twigs near those affected last year to find the nymphs that will crawl to breaking buds and produce lots more aphids.

March 22, 2016

Christmas Tree IPM Update 1.17.16

Digging back through the masses of email.  And then getting ready for MORE meetings and presentations!

Even though we haven’t seen much salt use so far, it is useful to know the impact of salts on plants and how to protect them

More or less deer browse with no snow? Learn more about how to manage the little darlings – Deer management resources, including webinars January 20 and 27, 2016.  Registration and webinar information in second paragraph.

More webinars – Soil and Nutrient Management for Field Grown Ornamentals and Christmas Trees in February from Michigan State University

There may be no such thing as a free lunch but MSU has free Pest Scouting Bulletins to download.  Perennial Crops includes conifers.

Just in case you didn’t do it yet – how to winterize your sprayer

Getting an old field ready for new trees – help from MSU
Part 1 and Part 2

Well, that should keep you off the streets for a bit!  Have a great week!  Come by and say HI if you are at the CTFANY meeting!

March 22, 2016

Christmas Tree IPM Update 3.22.16

Just a little snow fell at my house yesterday but it still feels springy!

And that leads us directly into the first question I received this spring:  When should I treat for white pine weevil?  Now (although maybe a slightly warmer day than today) urging by the Cornus maas blooming outside my office window and the silver maple I saw blooming in Geneva last week.  7-58 growing degree days.  You are trying to control the adults before they lay eggs and you know how a young white pine weevil’s fancy turns to love in the early spring.  Target the top third of the plant where they hang out.

Brian’s blog post on wpw:
For more pictures:
Do you get Sarah Pickel’s PA Christmas tree IPM report?  A good way to see what is heading our way.  Contact her at: c-sapickel@pa.gov
Sarah Pickel | IPM Education Specialist
PA Department of Agriculture | Bureau of Plant Industry
2301 North Cameron Street | Harrisburg, PA 17110
P: 717-772-5227

What is she seeing besides white pine weevil?
Pales weevil – larger than White pine weevil and with different habits.  While mostly a pine problem, the adults will feed on the bark of other conifers resulting in flagged or dead branches.  Eggs and larvae are only found in newly cut (less than a year) pine stumps so chipping or removing pine stumps is a good management practice.

Eriophyid mites – just starting.  These mites are tiny so it takes close scouting.  They can be carrot shaped or more elongated.  The eggs may be in clusters on the bottom of the needles.  Just a bit larger than the stomata spots.  There is a threshold for this pest – 80% of twigs with mites and at least 8 mites on a single needle on one shoot.  Get your hand lenses out!
Are you out in the trees yet?  I bet you are on the warm days.  Seems appealing when I am in my office.  I did walk my  conifer plantation the other day, though!  Lost one but the other 8 are happy.  🙂

Have a great week!