Oak Wilt Disease: How will our wildlife respond?

white oak

White oak (Quercus alba). Photo by David Stephens, Bugwood.org

by Erik Hull, Sustainable Plant Systems-Agronomy major

Oak Wilt is a major disease in Ohio affecting our oak trees. I chose this topic as my local plant disease because I am very interested in the effects it puts on wildlife.  The oak wilt fungus infects the vessels of the plant, and can plug them up stopping the uptake of water and nutrients, leading to death.

One of my favorite animals, whitetail deer, are a huge consumer of the white oak acorns.  The acorns provide lots of nutrients such as protein for the animal to grow healthy. Discussing the importance of the effects of oak wilt is important to me. Around my area, hunting is a big thing for us. It brings a lot of revenue for the county. Lots of people come from different states to hunt where I live. The increase of oak wilt in white oaks could have a huge impact on more than just the whitetail population, but on the county.

Going back to the disease, it is important for forest managers or land owners to recognize when they have this disease present. Oak Wilt can start at one tree, and infect many others in a short amount of time. The deadly fungus can spread from diseased to healthy trees in just two days. A beetle, called the Oak Bark Beetle could be the cause of this, transferring the pathogen from tree to tree.

In conclusion, I think it is very important that we know how to detect the early signs of oak wilt disease and know how to eliminate it. Acorns are a very important crop for our wildlife, and with oak trees being the host of the acorns, it is important to be able to identify these things.

About the author:

I am a senior at The Ohio State University, studying Sustainable Plant Systems with a specialization in agronomy. I have a love for wildlife, as my minor is wildlife management. I grew up in an old farmhouse about an hour north east of Columbus, where my dad taught my brothers and I the importance of the land and how to respect it.

Sources:

https://woodlandstewards.osu.edu/sites/woodlands/files/d6/files/pubfiles/HYG_3306_09%20oak%20wilt.pdf

http://www.buckmanager.com/2008/10/01/acorns-as-white-tailed-deer-food/

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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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