Manage your woodlands and landscape today for future success

Landowners need to be mindful of pests and adopt management practices which will better ensure a healthy forest future.

Photo: Ash killed by emerald ash borer along US-2 in Upper Peninsula Photo Credit: Mike Schira
Photo: Ash killed by emerald ash borer along US-2 in Upper Peninsula Photo Credit: Mike Schira

Dutch elm disease rolled through Michigan in the 60s and 70s devastating our elm tree populations. Currently, emerald ash borer (EAB), beech bark disease and oak wilt are actively killing and removing ash, beech and oak, causing loss of forest, wildlife and yard tree species from our landscapes across Michigan. Projections are that more new exotic pest species will become established in our ecosystems and threaten still more native species and ecosystems in future years.

Tree owners should be mindful of current and pending threats and consider taking steps to ensure a healthy landscape for the future. Short of using expensive and environmentally-challenging chemical and mechanical solutions to serious pest threats, tree owners should consider these two steps to hopefully a more successful tree management.

  • Encourage as many different species of trees as they can in a given area
  • Promote good general tree health

A mix of tree species in the same area will help ensure some or most will survive future attacking agents. Most disease and insect pests target specific species or family groups of trees.  The greater the variety of species in a given stand, the better the chance they won’t all be lost.  Conifer and deciduous trees along with a variety of native shrubs should all be encouraged.

To promote tree health, look to provide adequate space for trees to grow and develop. This may require some thinning of forest stands or spacing and pruning of yard trees. Michigan State University Extension, in partnership with the MSU Forestry department, has a listing of bulletins and publications which may be helpful in making management decisions. In landscape settings, where water is available, providing irrigation at the equivalent of about 1 inch of rain per week will help reduce tree stress and promote good healthy growth.

Care does need to be taken when pruning or removing trees both in the interest of personal safety and with consideration to possibly helping the pests we are trying to manage. Movement of wood products can spread harmful agents if they are present at the time of cutting. Michigan has an active “Don’t Move Firewood” campaign ongoing which details the potential threat from this activity. Open cuts from pruning or damaging bark on oak trees can create a pathway for oak wilt fungus to become established if this activity is conducted at the wrong times of the year.

Our Michigan forest landscape is being impacted and changed by the spread of exotic pests, a trend which will in all probability will continue. Landowners need to be mindful of these threats and prepare for the future. The MSU Extension Forestry web page is an additional source of information and links to educational materials. Landowners may also want to contact their local Conservation District office for advice and assistance.

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