Residents urged to prune elm trees to prevent disease

Matt
Matt Gardner
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Starting Monday, the city will be encouraging homeowners to prune their elm trees to prevent the spread of Dutch elm disease (DED).

An elm tree is seen in Kinsmen Park on Thursday. The city is encouraging homeowners to prune their elm trees to prevent the spread of Dutch elm disease.

The annual restriction on pruning elm trees in Saskatchewan runs each year from April 1 to Aug. 31 -- a standard that Prince Albert also complies with.

The prohibition period that runs up until Sept. 1 coincides with the peak breeding season of the bark beetle -- the insect that causes DED and to which elm trees are particularly susceptible to.

“Their breeding period is between March 31 and August 31 … which is why we don’t really advocate any pruning of elms during that time,” city parks manager Alissa Baker said.

“If you have wood sitting out that is elm wood, that’s very inviting for the beetles as well to come in, and so that’s why the ban is in place,” she added. “It’s just basically to control during the breeding time of the beetle.”

Regular pruning of elm trees each year helps reduce the risk of spreading DED by eliminating the dead wood that makes elm bark so attractive to the beetles.

“That’s how the disease is transferred,” Baker noted. “They can go within two kilometres of a contaminated site and infect other trees.”

So great is the danger, she added, that bringing elm firewood into the province is not recommended.

If you have wood sitting out that is elm wood, that’s very inviting for the beetles. Alissa Baker

Early fall is an optimal time for pruning elm trees, since -- besides relatively pleasant weather -- the presence of leaves on the trees makes it easier to find and remove dead or unhealthy branches.

However, improper pruning can result in the spread of DED or other diseases, making proper technique essential.

Baker urged anyone pruning elm trees to take their wood to the nearest approved disposal site as soon as possible -- which in Prince Albert is the city landfill west of Highway 2 North.

“Don’t leave it sitting out, because otherwise there is still a chance that it could become infected,” she said.

Another option is hiring a professional. Provincial DED regulations require commercial pruners of elm trees to complete a recognized training course or be under supervision from someone who has.

Should any residents notice diseased elm trees in the Prince Albert area, Baker added, they should contact the city public works department at 306-953-4900.

“Notify us immediately, so that we can make sure that it is not Dutch elm disease and look after it appropriately.”

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Highway 2 North

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