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Treating emerald ash borer

Staff at Smitty’s Lawn and Landscape can help save ash trees

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Jaime Brinkman, client service representative and certified arborist at Smitty’s Lawn and Landscape, poses next to an ash tree on the north side of Fort Dodge. Brinkman recently treated that tree for emerald ash borer, an invasive insect that can ultimately kill a tree if not treated.

Driving along 10th Avenue North on a recent summer day, Jaime Brinkman’s eyes were drawn to a trio of ash trees next to the Dodger Tennis Courts.

“It’s like if you’re looking for a red car, you start seeing red cars,” Brinkman said. “Once you start seeing ash trees, you see them everywhere and they are all over our community.”

Brinkman, a Clarion native, notices ash trees because she’s a certified arborist at Smitty’s Lawn and Landscape, 2305 Second Ave. N. And she’s particularly concerned with emerald ash borer, an invasive insect that feeds under the bark of ash trees. It disrupts the transport of nutrients and water throughout the tree, which ultimately kill it.

EAB started spreading across Iowa in the early 2010s. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced on July 1 that the EAB had been recently confirmed in Webster and Cerro Gordo counties. It has been identified in 73 Iowa counties.

There are between 2,000 and 2,500 ash trees on private land in Fort Dodge city limits. Those property owners will be responsible for either removing their ash trees or treating them.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Jaime Brinkman, client service representative and certified arborist for Smitty’s Lawn and Landscape, measures the circumference of an ash tree on the north side of Fort Dodge. The measurement is used to determine how much chemical treatment the tree needs and how much it will cost.

But Brinkman and the staff at Smitty’s can help.

Brinkman is a 2012 graduate of Iowa State University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in critical studies of design and horticulture.

Brinkman is an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist and Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association certified nursery professional.

There’s two main options to treat EAB, according to Brinkman.

The first option is something the homeowner can do on their own. It involves spraying a chemical called imidacloprid at the base of the tree. That application is good for one season.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Trees that have emerald ash borer can be treated with a chemical called emamectin benzoate and is highly effective in saving the trees, according to Jaime Brinkman, certified arborist for Smitty’s Lawn and Landscape.

That option does come with a few risks, according to Brinkman.

“Because it’s a neonicitnoid, it kills bees,” she said. “You have to be careful where you spray it. There’s a lot more risk factor than putting it directly into the tree.

The second option, which Brinkman recommends, is having a certified applicator directly inject the tree with a chemical called emamectin benzoate.

That application is good for two years.

“It’s very effective,” Brinkman said. “It gets injected into the base of the tree and it moves up the tree and that bark tissue via transpiration, which is how tree moves its nutrients and water. It’s an insecticide. The larvae is what causes the damages in the trees.”

Brinkman said that the treatment is both preventive and curative.

“It’s ideal to treat before the tree is infected,” she said.

If someone thinks they have an ash tree or have questions about EAB, Brinkman said an arborist should be called.

“They should have an arborist come out and give an evaluation and discuss whether the tree is a good candidate,” Brinkman said. “If it’s past 30 percent canopy decline theres no point in treating it.”

For trees that have already been infested, as long as there is less than 30% die-back in the crown, or the tree top, the tree can survive. If the die-back is more than 30%, it’s too far gone.

According to Brinkman, the bark of mature ash trees is distinctively diamond-shaped with raised ridges. The leaves are compound with five to seven leaflets per leaf. Branches and buds are arranged directly across from each other on the stem, not staggered. Seeds can sometimes be found as oar shaped samaras in clusters on the tree.

Brinkman said every tree is evaluated before an estimate is given.

Cost is based on the diameter of the trunk.

“We have to have an 8 inch tree at minimum,” Brinkman said. “Minimum price would be $100 up to $1,200 depending on size of the tree. A large tree, some of the largest would be $550 on the largest we typically see.”

Some properties make more sense to have a phased approach to treating the trees.

“You may get on a property where they have more than one ash tree, to make a plan to phase in some of the trees,” Brinkman said. “Do some this year and some next year. A plan for treatment that fits the budget. That’s something we can offer and talk through with clients also. Some people think its an all or nothing and that’s not necessarily true.”

The needs of customers can vary.

“There are a lot of people calling in, especially people who know they have ash trees,” Brinkman said. “Maybe it’s not that great of a tree and it’s time to get it removed or maybe it’s your only shade tree and its very valuable to you. A lot of people just don’t know about it too. You just don’t want to have dead trees that people have to spend a lot of money on in the next five years.”

Prior to joining Smitty’s, Brinkman worked for seven years at Wright Outdoor Solutions West Des Moines. EAB was prevalent during her time in the Des Moines area.

Evidence has shown the treatments have been effective.

“Trees that we treated look like they do the first day they were treated,” Brinkman said. “And ones that were not, are dead.”

Trees are extremely valuable to communities, Brinkman said.

“They have a have value on our property,” she said. “They are valuable to the community. And are also costly to remove. Once a tree dies, they die. They get very brittle. There could be a big removal bill and it may make more sense to treat them than to have the value gone on their property. That’s a huge safety issue as well.”

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