Quarantine seen on ash timber in Webster
A quarantine is likely to be imposed soon to ban the movement of wood from ash trees out of Webster Parish because of the discovery there of an invasive insect pest, timber industry personnel learned on March 17 at the Central Louisiana Forestry Forum organized by the LSU AgCenter.

Wood Johnson, an entomologist with the U.S. Department of\par }{\plain Agriculture, said ash trees are most prevalent in Louisiana along the Mississippi River, but only four percent of the hardwood in the state is an ash species, with an annual harvest value of $2.6 million.

He said the insect, emerald ash borer, has wiped out ash trees in Ohio and Michigan, and it is found in 25 states and two Canadian provinces. It is native to Asia and believed to have been brought into the U.S. on wooden pallets. It was first identified in the U.S. in 2002 in Michigan.

Johnson said the trees don't die until seven or eight years after the insect larvae start feeding on the wood. "It could be here right now, and we don't even know it," he said.

Johnson was part of a group that found the ash borer during a survey in February less than a mile from the Arkansas state line. The insect larvae were found in an ash tree that had indications of heavy woodpecker activity, he said. Webster parish borders the state line of Arkansas, where the insect has been found in the southwestern part of that state.

He said the insect movement has been recorded at a half mile per year, but some literature suggests it could move 10-15 miles in a year, he said.

The pests are often moved by human intervention with the hauling of wood, Johnson said. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to impose a quarantine that would restrict moving ash out of Webster parish, he said, and that would include hardwood firewood and any ash wood, including nursery stock and wastes. A decision on a quarantine is expected soon after a statewide forestry survey, he said.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry anticipated last October the insect's arrival and started a "Don't Move Firewood" campaign to educate people about the risks of transporting pests to other locations and encourage them to buy firewood not more than ten miles from where it will be burned. The LDAF has a hotline to report suspected emerald ash borers at 855-452-5323.

The LSU AgCenter also has a role in safeguarding timber and trees from invasive species. "The LSU AgCenter will continue to support outreach education efforts to forest landowners and the general public through our regional foresters and parish agents, " said LSU Vice President of Agriculture Bill Richardson.

Control of the insect in woodlands is not cost effective, Johnson said, but products are available for homeowners to protect their trees against the borer. A chemical injected into the tree can be effective, but it must be applied by a licensed applicator, and the cost is $10-$14 per inch of tree diameter. He said the protection lasts about two or three years.

Homeowners can buy and spray products on a tree trunk and plain surrounding soil. These include Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub, Safari and Transect, he said. Detailed information on chemical options can be found at the website www.emeraldashborer.info.

Johnson said many of the ash trees killed in northern states had been planted to replace chestnut trees that had been killed from a diseased outbreak that started about 100 years ago.