An Ounce of Prevention

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

Spring is right around the corner. Can you feel it? Central Virginia is certainly playing her usual game of beautiful, warm days intermixed with miserable, cold, winter weather days that wreak havoc with both our sanity and immune systems.

Plants are starting to awaken from their dormant slumber, which means that we’re gearing up in the Plant Health Care department for a busy growing season. One of our main tasks will be managing pests and diseases in the urban forest. This presents some challenges.

The disease triangle is thus: susceptible host, pathogen, and favorable environment. In other words, the right plant, the right disease, the right conditions. In a natural environment, these diseases and pests are a natural part of a thriving ecosystem, Mother Nature’s system of checks and balances that keeps everything participating fully in the cycle of life: birth, death, decomposition, new growth. However, the urban environment is often far from the ideal of a non-built environment. From micro-climate to micro-climate, it can be too hot, or not hot enough; too wet or too dry; the soil pH can be too acidic or too alkaline, and those conditions can change from one part of a property to another. With those favorable environments, and the abundance of vulnerable hosts, diseases and pests can thrive.

 

Dogwood anthracnose (Discula destructiva) leaf blotch. Photographer: Mary Ann Hansen, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.org.  Original: http://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5334047 Shared under Creative Commons BY.

 

Here’s where we apply Mr. Franklin’s wisdom – preventing the problems before they start. When dealing with the most prevalent issues in the Central Virginia area, such as the ambrosia beetle, spider mites, cottony camellia scale, and a variety of leaf diseases, we track environmental trends in the area over time. We use that data and the Growing Degree Day model for heat accumulation to figure out when pests and diseases will most likely either manifest or be in their most vulnerable stages of development. With this information in place, we attempt to time treatments to protect vulnerable hosts before or as the environment becomes favorable. This is far preferable to suppressing pests and diseases after they have already taken hold.

Some of our biggest culprits are soon upon us – now is definitely the time to let us know how we can protect your trees and shrubs, to keep them happy throughout the season! Thank you for trusting us to be partners in stewarding your landscape.