The ISU Shade Tree Short Course Tackles the Emerald Ash Borer Menace

Jeff Iles, Faculty, Horticulture Department

In an effort to alert and educate green industry professionals about the looming threat posed by the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), the 51st Annual Iowa State University Shade Tree Short Course (March 13-14, 2007) featured several EAB experts from the state of Michigan who gave presentations in both the opening general session and in workshops throughout the two-day conference.  To gauge the effectiveness of our educational effort and determine if conference attendees were inclined to change or modify their business practices after attending the STSC, we asked participants to voluntarily complete a short questionnaire.  Over one-fourth (26.4%) of our audience completed the questionnaire.

The emerald ash borer was discovered just a few short years ago (2002), yet when asked to characterize their general awareness of the emerald ash borer, almost three-fourths of our respondents said they had either moderate (52.9%) or high (23.5%) general awareness of EAB before attending the STSC.  Only five (3.7%) said they came to STSC 2007 without any awareness of EAB.  After attending the STSC, over three-fourths (77.9%) of respondents said they had high general awareness of EAB.

Many respondents arrived at STSC 2007 with either moderate (41.5%) or high (40%) levels of knowledge about tree species attacked by EAB, but after attending the STSC, the percentage of respondents claiming a high level of knowledge about tree species attacked by EAB doubled (80.7%).

Knowing how to accurately identify an EAB infestation is a critically important skill for green industry professionals, but before attending the STSC, a relatively large percentage of respondents said they had either no knowledge (10.3%) or low knowledge (25.7%) of the signs and symptoms associated with an EAB infestation.  But after attending the STSC, most respondents said they had either moderate (26.5%) or high knowledge (72.8%) of EAB signs and symptoms.

Current research suggests natural spread or movement of EAB should be about mile each year, however, since its identification in southeastern Michigan in 2002, this insect has spread throughout Michigan and into parts of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, Ontario, Canada, and just recently, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  Moving infested ash tree products (including firewood) from infested to non-infested areas has contributed to the rapid spread of EAB and it is extremely important for green industry professionals to be aware of this important fact.  Before attending the STSC, an alarming percentage of respondents said they had either no knowledge (9.8%) or low knowledge (24.8%) about the spread of EAB.  But after attending STSC 2007, over three-fourths (79.7%) of respondents said they had a high level of knowledge about the ways EAB is spread.

Because treatments for EAB are still being evaluated, it is not surprising many respondents claimed no knowledge (15.9%) or low knowledge (40.2%) about effective control measures for EAB.  In fact, only 6.1% of respondents felt they had high knowledge about effective control measures.  But after the STSC, most respondents reported having either moderate (51.5%) or high knowledge (41.7%) of measures for controlling this destructive insect pest.

Also not surprising was a general lack of knowledge among our survey population about Iowas plan for responding to what many feel is the inevitable arrival of emerald ash borer in Iowa.  Before the STSC, a majority of respondents said they had either no knowledge (31%) or low knowledge (43.7%) about Iowas plan, but at the completion of the conference, a majority felt they had moderate (41.3%) or high knowledge (25.4%) about the plan.  Still, a sizeable percentage (27%) departed from the STSC with low knowledge regarding Iowas plan for combating EAB.

For the most part, green industry professionals in Iowa have paid close attention to the economic and aesthetic damage caused by EAB in the affected states, and many have already made the difficult decision to either reduce or eliminate their reliance on native ash.  In fact, almost three-fourths (71.8%) of our respondents said they did not grow, recommend for landscape use, or install any ash species (Fraxinus spp.) during the past year.  But after attending the STSC, most of our respondents either strongly agreed (56.1%) or agreed (32.5%) with the statement, I plan on reducing the number of ash used at my place of business.  Smaller percentages of respondents either strongly agreed (47.2%) or agreed (26%) with the statement, I plan on eliminating the use of ash at my place of business, and 28 respondents (22.8%) signaled their reluctance to abandon this useful genus by disagreeing with the statement.

Sponsored by the departments of Entomology, Horticulture, Natural Resource Ecology & Management, and Plant Pathology, the Iowa State University Shade Tree Short Course remains one of the preeminent green industry conferences in the Midwest and the nation.  Participants rely on the STSC to help them work smarter and safer, and in the end, become more profitable.  Programming offered at STSC 2007 has succeeded in educating participants about the emerald ash borer, and in turn, will cause many of them to change or alter the way they do business in the future.  The STSC has affected positive change that will benefit Iowas urban forest and the economy of the state.

July 5, 2007
130 Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer

Page last updated: August 2, 2007
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