New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) announced that the oak tree disease oak wilt has been detected in Suffolk County. The disease was identified by the Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic after samples from a symptomatic oak tree were submitted by a tree care professional.
After the provided oak samples tested positive for the fungus that causes the disease, the tree care professional removed and destroyed four trees that exhibited signs of being infected. There is no known treatment to contain and kill the oak wilt fungus other than to remove the infected trees as well as any surrounding host oak trees.
“The infestation is small and isolated, making an aggressive eradication response warranted and feasible to address this serious disease,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Additional oak trees will need to be removed in the immediate infected area to stop oak wilt in its tracks.”
DEC will utilize the eradication protocols to control the infestation.
An emergency order has been issued establishing a protective zone that prohibits the removal of any living, dead, standing, cut or fallen oak trees or any portion, including branches, logs, stumps or roots, green oak lumber and firewood (of any species) out of the immediate area unless it has been chipped to less than one inch in two dimensions. The order also creates a 150-foot “red oak-free zone” around the specific location where the infected trees were discovered. All red oak located in these zones will be removed by DEC and destroyed in order to protect the remaining oak trees in the area.
“Acting now, while the incident is isolated, is a critical step toward preventing the spread of oak wilt and saving our trees,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “This aggressive plan will protect additional trees from infection and help eradicate the infestation quickly.”
Affected property owners will be contacted to inform them about oak wilt and provide information about how to help protect their remaining oak trees. DEC will schedule a public meeting to address questions and concerns regarding the plan to eradicate the disease. Aerial surveys, as well as ground surveys, will be conducted through the coming weeks to determine the number of trees that need to be removed from the red oak-free zone and tree removal is expected to take place within the next six months.
Oak wilt is a serious tree disease in the eastern United States, killing thousands of oaks each year in forests, woodlots and home landscapes. It is caused by a fungus that grows in the water-conducting vessels of host trees causing the vessels to produce gummy plugs that prevent water transport. As water movement within the tree is slowed, the leaves wilt and drop off and eventually the tree dies.
The public should report occurrences where an oak tree suddenly loses its leaves during the month of August to the Forest Health Information Line at 866-640-0652. Visit www.dec.ny.gov for more information about oak wilt or the emergency order.
—Submitted by the New York State Department of Conservation