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Somebody sent me this interesting article about a way of getting rid of ailanthus without chemicals.  It involves debarking the tree in the winter time.  I have actually rid my farm  of the thousands of ailanthus, so I have no trees left to try this on.  You can read about it here –

I noticed some Ailanthus trees dead by the side of the highway, and wrote asking my local paper what was up with them – was the highway department killing them?  They actually wrote an article about it –

Of course he mispelled basal bark treatment and neglected to mention triclopyr, the herbicide used (mentioned elsewhere in this blog).  But those problems are easily forgiven, with the note about “nonalfalfae”, a natural occuring fungus that is killing the trees.  And that it has been found at milepost 125 on I81, which is exactly where I saw the dead trees.  Poking around on the interwebs, I found that this was the very first place that this was discovered in VA. I’m sure it was noticed there, as it is close to VA Tech.

Further poking around finds that the fungus is actually called Verticillium nonalfalfae.  In a scientific article published only a couple of weeks ago by VA Tech and University of PA researchers, in the field, 100 canopy Ailanthus trees were inoculated across 12 stands with VnAa140 (verticillium nonalfalfae) from 2006 to 2009. By 2011, natural spread of the fungus had resulted in the mortality of >14,000 additional canopy Ailanthus, 10,000 to 15,000 Ailanthus sprouts, and nearly complete eradication of Ailanthus from several smaller inoculated stands, with the exception of a few scattered vegetative sprouts that persisted in the understory for several years before succumbing.

The article concludes: Our results indicate that V. nonalfalfae is host-adapted and highly efficacious against Ailanthus and is thus a strong candidate for use as a biocontrol agent.  I’ve written to the VA Tech researcher to see if I can get the fungus to innoculate some trees here.

So, like rose-rosette disease killing off the invasive multlflora, we now have potential biocontrol of ailanthus.  Next up, something for autumn olive?

The brown marmorated stink bug, one of our newest and most insidious and invasive pests, has a symbiotic relationship with the ailanthus tree according to a recent article in the Staunton News Leader.  Dr. Ames Herbert, an extension entomologist from VA Tech, says

“Heavy infestations seem to be associated with fields with wooded borders, especially if there are concentrations of the invasive weed Tree of Heaven,” Herbert said. “Both are native to China and the (stink bug) seems to be strongly attracted to that host, especially when the trees are putting out their seed clusters. It’s like a happy reunion.”

The highest concentrations of the stink bugs have been found where the invasive plant is also found in high numbers, Herbert noted.

The article does not offer the best advice for getting rid of ailanthus, but it makes an additional case to do so.

If you google “ailanthus eradication”, this blog is ranked #1.  That, and “multiflora rose eradication” are the two biggest reasons people find this blog on their own (over 20,000 hits so far).  So over the next few months I will try to increase the information available on this blog about eradicating these invasive exotics.  VA Tech and Penn State have both done some research on using Verticillium wilt as a natural control of ailanthus, with the main disadvantage being that it also kills mimosa trees.  I will try to post more on that soon.

Absolutely gorgeous spring day on Sat – perfect for a massacre.  Garlic mustard is the latest invasive exotic threatening the woodlands in Floyd (and throughout half the US). I’ve seen pictures where the entire forest floor has been taken over by it.  Right now it’s blooming and easy to see – I pulled up thousands of them yesterday.  The Ailanthus is also starting to leaf out, identifying those that I haven’t killed in the past two years.  The good news is that every single one of them larger than a pinky are now dead.  The bad news is that they are now already falling over everywhere – into pastures and paths which will require serious work to clean up.  And there are still thousands of sprouts smaller than a pinky.  Did the “hack and squirt” on hundreds of them on Sat.  It was a good day.

Below an aggravating sight – garlic mustard, ailanthus, and multiflora rose all in a 2 square ft area.  Sometimes the task seems overwhelming….

Unholy Trinity

Unholy Trinity

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