1. Top Ten Disease and Insect Problems in NYS. 2. Cultural Practices. 3. Resources. 4. Oak Decline. 5. Next Generation.
The annual series of conferences around the region and industry have moved to Zoom this year. of course. I spent some time in a session this morning called "Top Ten Disease and Insect Problems of Trees in NYS." It was presented by Dr. Beth Brantley of Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories. Some quick things that happened for me during the session:
A. So many things we do - we call them "Cultural Practices" - are often about preventing disease and insect problems. They are just standard practices, so standard I think I forget why we do them as the practices, while starting as "Good Plant Health Care" become art forms and aesthetics in themselves. Two things that were mentioned today were (1) pruning to maintain good air circulation in a plant (drier leaves = less disease) and (2) cleaning up fall and winter debris in the garden because many diseases and insects over winter in leaves and pine cones that have fallen from the tree. Basic fundamental stuff. Just. One forgets why sometimes.
B. On good resources. There are two books on tree insect and diseases that has long been the standard top resource on the subject, at least 30 years, and still none better. Warren T. Johnson and Howard H. Lyon's "Insects That Feed on Trees and Shrubs" (1976) and Wayne Sinclair and Howard Lyon's "Diseases of Trees and Shrubs" (1987). Both are 500-700 page, classical resource books, with full color photographs and full text descriptions. In the internet age, resource books have surely heavily declined in use. But, the information one finds in Google searches - the books replacement - is very sketchy and hit or miss. Most everything is just "web content," garbage write ups from people just looking to attract hits to their webpages. They sell advertising. Always look to the University pages. Every state has it "land grant college" that deals in horticulture, turf, and agriculture, and they all put out very accessible top quality information packaged for a number of audiences with different levels of expertise. Around here, look to Cornell University first. But also, Penn State, Ohio State, UMASS, University of Maryland, and Guelph, Ontario are universities I recognize off the top of my head that I can go to immediately and without question. But also, don't forget about books.
C. "Oak Decline." I questioned this a bit, not out of doubt, but that we, as a field of tree experts, have objectified all Oaks, everywhere, as "in decline." This is the first time I have ever heard such a concept. It is one thing to say "Emerald Ash Bore is sweeping across the Northeast and killing Ash trees" but it is another to pronounce an entire genus of tree as being in a historical moment of stress and decline. Cited factors are warmer temperatures, drought, and ever more complicated site conditions relating to how we manage the land, environment, and urban development.
D. Another red flag that popped up for me was Dr. Brantley made reference to the trees we select "as we repopulate the landscape with the next generation of trees." I mean, in a way, certainly this is what we are doing, always. We work in the cities and the trees don't live forever. But at the same time, when she said it, it struck me as something not innocent but apocalyptic.