The Death of Ohio’s Shade

Symptoms of Dutch elm disease. Photo: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

By Daniel Zellars, Sustainable Plant Systems major

The elm tree, a common shade and wind break tree in the U.S., has been dying due to Dutch elm disease. The first strand was brought over from Europe in the 1920s, while the second strand of Dutch elm disease was brought over later. This strand finished killing what trees the first strand had left alive.

Dutch elm disease is a fungus that is spread by the elm bark beetle. The beetles were introduced to the U.S. first, and the fungus shortly followed. The fungus was first introduced when carpenters imported European elm logs with the fungus inside.

Damage from the Dutch bark beetle. Photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Dutch elm disease reached the west coast of the U.S. in 1973. Dutch elm disease has killed 40 million American elm trees. Many of the elms that we planted were street trees to provide needed shade for front yards and streets. Most of these plantings have been killed off.

The introduction of diseases and pests like Dutch elm disease give reason why we need to be careful with international trade. Diseases and pests in certain areas of the world can destroy essential crops if brought into the areas in which the crops are produced. The protection of the global food supply is why there is so much security concerning plants, plant products, soil and containers.

The protection of U.S. food and global food is dependent on us, the normal person, to help stop the spread of devastating diseases and insects. So, remember the next time you travel to clean your shoes, check your souvenirs for tag-a-longs and do not bring soil home with you.

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My name is Daniel Zellers. I am a fourth year at The Ohio State University. My major is Sustainable Plant system with a specialization in Horticulture and my minor is in Agribusiness.

More Information

You can go to http://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/intropp/lessons/fungi/ascomycetes/Pages/DutchElm.aspx for more information on Dutch Elm disease. You can visit the USDA APHIS web page for more information on the import and export of plants and animals. The following link is for the USDA APHIS web page https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/home

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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