The Value of Christmas Trees

"...there is no reason why the joy associated with the Christmas evergreen may not be a means of arousing in the minds of children an appreciation of the beauty and usefulness of trees; and keen appreciation of the beauty and usefulness of trees is a long stop toward the will to plant and care for them (Arthur Sowder, US Forest Service, 1949)."

Monday, March 22, 2010

March Madness

Well. Not quite. I thought it might get people's attention. Of course, people do get a bit mad in the spring. "Mad as a March hare," the English used to say. People are just now realizing what all they have to do this spring -- at least I know I am.

Just wanted to share a few observations I and others have been making this spring.

BALSAM TWIG APHIDS: I haven't seen any hatched yet, but the eggs are getting plump like they are ready to hatch. However, I haven't found any fields so far with a high incidence of twig aphid eggs. You might pull off 10 shoots before you find an egg. I guess last spring it stayed so wet that the aphids didn't reproduce well. Remember, though, that even these low numbers can result in damaging levels of twig aphids if the spring is warm and dry, as the aphids reproduce so quickly.

VOLES: Both Bryan Davis and Doug Hundley are seeing greater than normal vole activity. With all the snow cover, it only makes sense.

Bryan sent the following in a March 17 email, "I have seen a tremendous amount of signs of rodent tunneling under the snow. During the winter when the snow melted on some fields signs were visible and as I've been out over the last two weeks I've thought this is the most sign I've ever seen. I recall seeing some signs of rodents last fall where we were spraying deer repellent and as I've returned to these farms there is more signs of rodent activity. The tracks I'm seeing don't seem to bee tunneling in the soil, but on top of the ground. I haven't seen any damage such as girdling or dead trees in these fields yet. I'm going back to one site today that has had a lot of activity and I'll look closer for signs of damage. As far as control, I had a grower asking about this last fall and I checked with Scott Henson about what they carry at CPS and they had rodenticides, but they came in large volumes. Hopefully now the hawks, foxes and cats can work on these pests."

I've only found voles damaging Fraser fir once -- and in that field they completely severed the trunks of small trees. The poor little trees looked like pencils stuck in the ground. Rodent control on that farm involved controlling the thick grass in the field, allowing the hawks to work it. Like Bryan says, the natural predators should take care of things.

RUST MITES: Bryan and I found some rust mites getting started over the last couple of weeks, but numbers were still very low.

OIL TRIAL FACTS AND FIGURES: Bryan sprayed some trees with the new Saf-T-Side oil last Friday. We used a backpack mistblower and a 2% rate. I'll try to get back there next week and see what the eggs look like. He was using about 100 gallons of water per acre to get good coverage. That is probably more than most growers could use, putting it out 3 1/2 gallons at a time. Another grower we talked to figured he was applying about 8 backpacks per acre for around 28 GPA.

That grower burned some trees with oil last year using his high pressure sprayer. All the needles fell off of some trees. The buds for 2009 weren't touched, and so all that's left is 2009 growth. Here is a picture of one of those trees. Hopefully this new oil will be easier for growers to use and won't cause burn.

Oil isn't cheap. If you are using the regular oils which are about $14 a gallon -- a 2% solution and 300 GPA comes out to $84 per acre. When Bryan sprayed last year, he used up almost a case of oil (5 gallons) on 1,000 trees which cost more than $100 per acre. But, Bryan hopes to market these trees as "pesticide-free" this fall which should give him an advantage over conventionally grown trees.

If anyone sees any interesting pest problems, let me know so I can share them with everyone.

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