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Kansas ag department: Burn firewood from local trees to help curb diseases

Until it is burned, firewood is a potential carrier of the pest, disease or fungus found in a tree before it was cut for firewood, the Kansas Department of Agriculture said in a news release.
Until it is burned, firewood is a potential carrier of the pest, disease or fungus found in a tree before it was cut for firewood, the Kansas Department of Agriculture said in a news release. File photo

If you use firewood to heat your home this winter, the Kansas Department of Agriculture wants you to use firewood from local trees to help prevent the spread of harmful insects and diseases.

Until it is burned, firewood is a potential carrier of the pest, disease or fungus found in a tree before it was cut for firewood, the department said in a news release.

The department defines “local,” with regard to firewood, as within 20 to 30 miles of your home or within the same county.

Firewood purchased at retail stores is generally safe to transport, but look for a U.S. Department of Agriculture compliant sticker on the wood to be sure.

Here are the three biggest threats from insects and diseases, according to the release.

Emerald ash borer

First discovered in North America in 2002 around the Detroit area, these metallic green beetles – native to Asia – have spread along the East Coast, north into Canada, as far south as Arkansas and west to Colorado.

Michigan State University considers the beetles the most destructive forest pest ever seen in North America.

The pest has been confirmed in Douglas, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties, which prohibit transportation of hardwood firewood outside their counties to help prevent the spread of the pests.

“Eventually, unfortunately, the (emerald ash borer) will spread to the rest of the state,” said Jeff Vogel, plant protection and weed control program manager with the state Department of Agriculture.

Symptoms: Zig-zag or serpentine burrows in the sapwood of the ash tree and capital D-shaped exit holes in the bark.

Pine wilt

Caused by the pinewood nematode, the disease is transported by the pine sawyer beetle.

Pine wilt rapidly kills pine trees, stopping the flow of resin in the sapwood. Pine wilt is common in the eastern two-thirds of the state, including Wichita.

Symptoms: Quarter-inch, round insect exit holes, a sign of the pine sawyer beetle. It is only truly identifiable through lab tests.

Thousand cankers disease

The result of a fungus and the walnut twig beetle, the disease threatens black walnut trees, an important species with great economic and ecological value. It has not yet been detected in Kansas.

Symptoms: Cankerous, bruise-like discolorations on the sapwood of walnut trees and shot-spread-looking twig beetle exit holes.

Vogel said people play an important role in helping to slow the movement of these pests.

“It is imperative to take initiative when moving firewood,” Vogel said in the release. “Preventing destructive pests is important not only for the health of our trees, but also for our economy.”

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that from 2009 to 2019, the response to eliminating the emerald ash borer will cost as much as $10.7 billion.

If you think you have come into contact with any of these tree diseases, contact the Kansas Department of Agriculture at 785-564-6700 or e-mail pcwc@kda.ks.gov.

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