Ever since Dutch Elm Disease (DED) appeared in Saskatchewan in the 1980s, Saskatoon has remained free of it. Until now.
An elm sample sent to a provincial lab came back positive for the disease Tuesday. The city has since started implementing it’s “DED Response Plan”.
The offending elm is being removed from the Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood, and the branches sent to the landfill. City crews will continue to sample and inspect all trees in the surrounding area, and put down five more elm bark beetle pheromone traps.
“We’re very concerned, and we want to react as quickly as possible to this,” said city parks director Darren Crilly.
The city has been actively testing for DED since 1993, but this is the first time a positive case has been identified.
“Saskatoon doesn’t have any native elm stands connected to its elm population,” said Saskatoon pest management supervisor Jeff Boone, “it’s most likely someone has moved Dutch Elm Disease through the movement of infected firewood.”
Boone said the disease spreads aggressively through infected elms, and between trees placed close together along a street. Crilly said the city’s response to containing DED has to be just as aggressive.
DED has wiped out millions of elms across Canada and the United States since the 1930’s.
“Just go back and look on the archives of the city of Saskatoon and look back in the 20s of what the city looked like, it was basically streets of houses and no trees,” Dutch Growers Garden Centre owner Rick van Duyvendyk, said.
“Wouldn’t it be something else if you drive down Spadina Crescent and all the trees were cut down?”
He explained there is something that people can do to help the city prevent and contain the disease.
“The key… is keeping your trees healthy,” he said, adding he helps people learn how to properly prune elm trees.
“A lot of insects will only go after trees that are stressed.”
He added that the city is moving quickly to stop the spread because the costs could be substantial.
“There would be a huge financial burden to both the City and the homeowners because they have to take it down,” he said. “Just think of what it would cost to remove all of those trees.”
People are advised to keep an eye out for wilting in their neighbourhood trees, respect the provincial pruning ban between April and August, not store or transport any elm firewood, and take all of their elm wood to the city dump.
– With files from News Talk Radio’s Brent Bosker