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)."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Some Results on Pest Control

We're seeing more twig aphid damage than I anticipated. After all, it wasn't easy to find twig aphids in April. Plus we had lots of rain and cooler temperatures which tend to reduce the survival of the aphids. But they are well adapted to western NC, and they have ended up causing some damage.

BUT... with all the rain, a lot of the damage is disappearing. I spoke with Bryan Davis who told me that he is seeing less needle curl in fields this week even than last week. Thanks to the rain, the majority of this curl will go away.

This leads me to some data to report from my current studies.

FALL TWIG APHID CONTROL: Last fall, Jerry Moody and I treated some trees October 18, 2010. Really we were trying to see how late you could treat in the fall and still control elongate hemlock scale. But I also wanted to see if the treatments would control twig aphids the following spring. We tried Safari (applied to the foliage with a high pressure sprayer at 8 oz/100 gallons), Lorsban, and the standard Dimethoate + Asana.

I did evaluate scale control this spring, and none of the products worked well. This wasn't surprising as mid October is probably too late to get much scale control. However, I also evaluated BTA control this spring with these fall treatments and those results are pictured here.

Remember that I evaluate twig aphid damage by either walking around the entire tree (which makes me dizzy!) or working with a partner. For these observations, I worked with Jerry Moody. We walked on either side of the tree and estimated the percentage of 2011 new shoots with needle curl each on our respective side -- then we come to an average figure for that tree. These result in the numbers in the first column (% shoots with curl) -- averaged for all 20 trees. The next column has the percentage of the 20 trees with at least SOME needle curl. The third column has the percentage of 20 trees with 10 % or more of the needles curled. This is the point where most growers tell me the damage is bad enough to affect the value of the tree. Of course remember that the needle curl will decline over the next several weeks, so all of these numbers will go down. Still, the comparison now when the damage is at its greatest tells us how well the products are working.

Obviously, neither the Lorsban nor the Safari are giving us any twig aphid control when applied in the fall. The Asana + Dimethoate worked well, though not perfectly. In fact, Brad Edward's observation this spring has been that the Asana in the fall isn't working quite as well as the Talstar applied in the fall. It works, but a bit of curl gets through. These results bear this observation out, and in fact the first year I did this type of work at Omni Farms, that was our observation. Still, the Asana + Dimethoate gives good enough control and it would be more effective against scales.

SPRING CONTROL WITH SYSTEMICS: So how well does Safari and Movento work in the spring? Jerry and I applied these products at two farms, treating on April 18, 2011. In this instance we applied the Safari to the base of the tree trunk and not the foliage, using a rate of 1 pound per acre. At two farms we did this with a high pressure sprayer, and at one farm just with a backpack sprayer. The Movento and bifenthrin are applied with a high pressure sprayer to the foliage.

The results again demonstrate that Safari isn't giving us twig aphid control. Practically all the trees had some needle curl when treated with Safari. The Movento gives fair control. A lot of trees have some curl, but hardly enough to worry about. The bifenthrin is of course the best.

At these two farms there was also scale and woolly adelgid. We will be looking at the control of these pests later on in the summer, so stay tuned!

OTHER OBSERVATIONS THIS SPRING: Once again, several people I've spoken with this week are commenting on spider mite activity. The rain is reducing mites to some extent -- probably by increasing predator mite activity, but it is still important to scout for spider mites and make sure they don't damage new growth. The good news? All of this hot weather should be taking care of any rust mite issues!


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