Fuel for the Fire, but no Ashes?

By Boden Fisher, Sustainable Plant Systems major

Ash logs in chipping yard, Michigan. Photo: David Cappaert, Bugwood.org

For the past few years Ohioans like myself have not had to look far to get good firewood. Indeed, it is hard to find a park where decreased forest canopies and the stumps of ash trees are not evident. The losses can be credited largely to a beetle whose name designates it as more of a gem than it really is. Since 2003 the Emerald Ash Borer has been extending its domain throughout Ohio, along with other states.

Not only has this epidemic affected the temperate forest biome, as well as residential scenery, but industries such as baseball bat producers are feeling the effects of depleted ash tree supplies.

We have grown accustomed to seeing “Don’t move firewood!” signs near our roadways, but now that the statewide quarantine is lifted, it seems we have given up on the Ash tree. However, the Forest Service has been testing ways fight this catastrophic pest. One strategy was introducing a predatory wasp. Another, is attracting masses of the pest to one host tree by removing the bark, and subsequently disposing of it and its parasitic inhabitants.

The borer, Agrilus planipennis, works by eating away at the vascular tissue within host trees, thus depriving its upper shoots of nutrients and water. The end comes quickly as foliage depletes, along with photosynthesis, and trees are dead within a few years of infestation.

Thankfully, there are insecticides that can help against the beetle, but as in most treatments, early action is necessary to be successful. Treatments are cost effective only for small scale needs, but it is encouraging to see resources available to preserve the trees where plausible.

Being a lifelong Ohioan and lover of shade, I hope to see progress in efforts to halt the loss of one of our native ash trees.

Boden Fisher is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University, majoring in Sustainable Plant Systems with a specialization in Agronomy. He plans to graduate in 2018 and pursue the advocacy of modern agricultural practices in low-income areas and contribute to advancement of sustainable food systems.

More Information and Sources Cited

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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *