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If Texan Red Oaks and Live Oaks are your best charm, we believe it is better to be safe than sorry. Oak Wilt, a major problem that oak trees might have to encounter, are capable of defoliating and killing a tree within one growing season. Value Tree Service in Austin provides you with best techniques to prevent and manage oak wilt.

What is Oak Wilt?

oak wilt bark Austin TX
Tree trunk infected with Oak wilt fungus

Oak wilt is a vascular fungus that spreads over your trees and causes a fatal infection. The fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum is transmitted through the Nitidulid beetle that carries the fungal spores along with it. The nitidulid beetle, on the other hand, is attracted to trees with fresh open wounds (either from pruning or cuts) that ooze out certain sugars and water. The fungus forms mats on the healthy oaks on which the beetles now reside.

Where does it affect the oak tree?

Sap attracts the beetle, so any cut on the trunk, branches, fresh firewood and roots (most importantly), are good habitats for the fungus as well. Oak trees, not to forget they are Austin’s most popular greenery, grow in dense groups called Motts and therefore undoubtedly have interconnected roots. It takes an expert to remember the unseen portion of the tree and identify any infection that may still unremoved. Oak wilt is transmitted from infected trees to healthy ones rapidly and silently, through root connections.

oak wilt management Austin TX
Oak wilt leaves

How to manage oak wilt?

  1. Seal the cause: Open wounds and sap are the main cause that attracts the beetle. To prevent this, do the first step: seal the wounds. If you spot any new cut on your tree; anything from latex, oil-based, spray-on, brush-on or wound dressing will do the purpose of a good sealant.
  2. Sterilize carriers: Never gave a thought to sterilizing tools? Well, you should if you haven’t so far. Fungal or any other pathogenic life forms that transfer through spores or spread easily, rejoice over unsterilized tree tools by keeping them as carriers. Using tools at close intervals that contain any minimal residue of the infection is adequate for transmission, exclusively for oak wilt.
  3. Remove infections: No matter if it’s just a small limb or it costs the whole tree when there is an oak wilt infection, every last bit of it should be removed. Experts at our Austin’s Value Tree Service suggest, that the log should not be left to laze around and become a comfortable relapse for the beetles, rather they should be burnt down. The advantage here, the fungus is heat sensitive!
  4. Watch the firewood: Purchase of unseasoned firewood should be done cautiously. If the firewood has been infected with oak wilt, there are very good chances that it will spread to your healthy uninfected oak trees (especially if the firewood is stored and not put to use immediately). Remember to dry the wood out for at least a year to disable the fungus.
  5. Seal the wood: If you have cut down your infected oak and you intend on using it as firewood, keep it sealed with a plastic cover for a year. Doing this will dry out your wood. Once you notice the barks withering out and the wood crack, it signifies that the fungus is no longer viable and the wood can be put to use.
  6. Fungicides: To scare away both the beetle and the fungus, insecticidal and fungicidal injections are administered, as a preventive measure. The fungicide Propiconazole (Alamo TM) is injected into individual high-value trees. This not just fights oak wilt, but also prevents crown loss and helps to prolong life span. Use of Alamo TM compound in plantations will prevent losses due to oak wilt infection.
  7. Watch the roots: As mentioned earlier, roots are the best bet that the pathogen would think of. Thus, it is an uncompromised initiative to guard the roots and prevent oak wilt from spreading through root connections. Value Tree Service arborists are skilled at root trenching. If guarding oak Motts is your concern, through meticulous trenching techniques, they drill in 4-5 foot trenches between root connections. Severing roots and building trenches (atleast by a 100-foot) will raise a barrier around the infected trees. It is critical to carefully observe the other closely connected or nearby trees because oak wilt might not display the symptoms of infection immediately. If it is indeed severely infected and tree removal of other non-symptomatic trees also becomes necessary, it is advised that you ensure that the trenching is done first to protect other trees around the area before you step into the trenching.

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