On your property, insects and microorganisms abound. If this is news to you, don’t go running for the sprays and bug bombs. This is a natural and beneficial state. Insects and microorganisms are essential components in plant-nutrient recycling and decomposition. This article covers how to help your trees resist pests with integrated pest management.
“A landscape without insects and microorganisms would be a very unhealthy environment,” notes Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association. “The trick is to balance the threshold of healthy plants. Having too much of a good thing is when the naturally occurring insects and diseases become a problem. This is where integrated pest management (IPM) program may benefit your landscape plants.” Even if your goal is to have the best-looking yard on the block, it will look better if it is naturally healthy.
Periodic outbreaks of destructive tree pests and diseases occur as part of natural fluctuations in ecosystems. When homeowners take unguided actions against these pests, they often make these outbreaks worse. With guidance regarding the use and importance of IPM, a homeowner can lessen pests’ impact locally. IPM provides the steps needed to promote a healthy landscape, prevent destructive pest outbreaks, and ensure diversity and vigor on a property.
Begin by keeping your healthy trees healthy. Monitor for pests and use preventative and cultural controls. Controls include proper irrigation and mulch. Many qualified plant health care companies can assist you in this first step.
Many property owners have just a single tree or a few trees. Others have small backyard woods, which have become an important component of the urban environment. Small woodlands with a mix of tree species are often less
susceptible to pest outbreaks than woods with a single species.
A diversity of tree ages also reduces the risk of pest outbreaks. As with species diversity, age diversity increases the complexity and stability of the ecosystem. A natural balance of organisms is more likely to develop as age
diversity increases. For example, potential pests of young trees can be regulated by parasites and predators from well-established older trees.
“A healthy landscape is less susceptible to pest outbreaks and is more resilient if an outbreak does occur,” stresses Andersen. “When trees overcrowd the root zone, competition for light, water, and nutrients results in increased stress. Trees under stress are more likely to be attacked by pests.”
The first clues of a tree health problem may include yellowing needles or leaves, thinning foliage, or dieback on upper limbs. These problems may be caused by insect pests or disease pathogens. They may also arise from the “abiotic” factor. Abiotic factors include lawn maintenance activities, construction damage, drought, compacted soil, or fertilizer/pesticide misuse.
What to Do
A professional arborist can help you build and maintain an effective IPM program that will keep your property healthy and thriving. A professional arborist can also recommend treatments, including planting new trees, correcting soil deficiencies, increasing water and nutrients, monitoring for pests, or providing pest management.
Contact the Tree Care Industry Association, a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938. TCIA has more than 2,400 member tree care firms and affiliated companies. All member tree care companies recognize stringent safety and performance standards. TCIA requires members to carry liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, where applicable. TCIA has the nation’s only Accreditation program that helps consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited. Accredited companies are based on: adherence to industry standards for quality and safety; maintenance of trained, professional staff; and dedication to ethics and quality in business practices. An easy way to find a tree care service provider in your area is to use the “Find A Tree Care Company” program. You can use this service by doing a ZIP Code search on www.treecaretips.org.
*Board Certified Master Arborist, Certified Treecare Safety Professional