Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oak Abuse, Part 5: Technology Is Amazing

My neighbor has contacted the Kunde Consultants division of S&S Tree Specialists to prevent the spread of oak wilt to other trees in her yard, as well as those in her neighbor's yard since oak roots don't recognize property lines... and in the process I was reminded of what an amazing time we live in.

Steve Kunde was a pioneer in the area of oak wilt prevention and eradication. He was also, and I'll never forget this, an early supporter of a little non-profit organization called Lasting Woodlands that I started as an urban forestry student back in 1988. A few years ago Kunde Company was acquired by S&S Tree Specialists, but remained essentially intact. I saw Steve about 18 months ago and he was really happy about the arrangement, which allows him to focus on the forestry side of things while the larger S&S organization can handle more of the business matters.

Glen Olson is a highly experienced forester with Kunde Consultants. Rather than driving 45 minutes south to Northfield to visit the site in person he brilliantly saved time & gas... and visited the site via satellite. Glen called say he was looking at my neighbor's home via an aerial image on Google Maps. He could see the line of oaks, and the location of the various walkways, sidewalks and driveways that I have always worried would make trenching to sever root grafts difficult if not impossible. He could tell from the imagery which trees were oaks and which were not. Amazing.

The bad news: Trenching is impossible.
The good news: The adjacent trees can be injected with fungicide to prevent infection. This will need to be done now and again in 2 years. The fungicide is called Propiconazole.

I was happy to provide some "ground truth" (as we say in the remote imaging game) by taking diameter measurements of the trees so that Glen could complete his quote quickly.

The 2 threatened oaks immediately to the north of the infected tree are 28 and 27 inches in diameter. The 2 oaks to the south are even bigger - 29 and 31 inches.

But of course the tree that died was the biggest of the group: 35.5 inches in diameter - 111.5 inches in circumference!

It's been a weird summer... arriving home from work in May 22 to learn that some hacks had pruned my neighbor's red oak trees smack dab in the middle of the danger zone for oak wilt spread... watching those trees all summer, first hoping against hope that they'd be all right, and then hoping against hope that the die back I was seeing was caused by something else, something less deadly... getting the diagnosis of oak wilt... then reconnecting with a great company like Kunde Consultants to do things right and protect the surrounding trees.

Every time I get discouraged that there are guys out there calling themselves tree care professionals who are wantonly (or accidentally through ignorance, which is just as bad) harming trees, I remember that there are people like Steve Kunde and Glen Olson out there who are committed to doing things right. And, who now have technology available to them that allows them to "visit" a site 35 miles away in a matter of minutes so they can do their important work even more efficiently and effectively.

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