Tree Care Industry (TCI) Magazine: Plant health care (PHC) is the science and practice of understanding and overcoming the succession of biotic and abiotic factors limiting plants from achieving their full genetic potential in our landscapes and urban forests. Plant health care has been practiced as long as modern arboriculture itself and, as a science-based concept, is an important component in overall integrated pest management (IPM).
Pest management in our urban forests is a moving target and sometimes is overwhelming, especially for those early-career professionals. I remember from my early days in the field the overwhelming thought of needing to know every pest for every tree! I literally had a truckload (back seat of a king cab) of university publications, bulletins and articles ripped out of magazines for reference in the event I couldn’t figure it out quickly and on site. Just that fear of not knowing was often very stressful. Well, that has changed significantly.
The point is that first, you don’t have to know everything, and second, resources now are easily and readily available. Today, the smartphone and computing opportunities available on mobile platforms, apps such as the Purdue Tree Doctor and other web-based apps have improved diagnostics significantly, making it simpler for the technician to get a better idea of their pest issue and easier to find a control strategy.
One of the basic and most important keys when starting a PHC program is just learning to recognize the concerns for common trees already in your care. Tree identification is critically important to determine whether the tree is even a host for any given disease or insect. As a technician, you don’t need to know every tree in North America; just focus on those that are commonly found and that you are called upon to investigate for pest issues with your clients and customers. Few things are as awkward as misidentification of a tree and the corresponding application. Recommendations for treating emerald ash borer on a European mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia), which is not susceptible to EAB infestation, could be fairly damaging to your credibility and your company!
Get some help
All there is to know and what you need to know can be mind-boggling; however, it is more manageable when we are able to discover the resources available. Often overlooked, local extension services from state land-grant colleges provide a tremendous collection of experts trained and educated in pest management. They often have plant and pest diagnostic laboratories assisting with identification of those challenging diseases or insects, usually at a very economical cost, along with the appropriate management strategy to apply for control.
Planting Your Tree Part 1: Choosing Your Tree, Purdue Extension YouTube Channel
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Extension Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Ask an Expert: Tree Selection and Planting, Purdue FNR Extension YouTube Channel
Webinar: How to Identify Trees in Indiana, Got Nature? Post, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources
Shrubs and Woody Vines of Indiana and the Midwest, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Native Trees of the Midwest, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
ID That Tree, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube Playlist
Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab
Emerald Ash Borer Information from Purdue
Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources