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Deadly Tree Disease Found in Indiana

The fungus that causes Thousand Cankers Disease, an insidious infection that targets Black Walnut trees, has been found in Yellowwood State Forest.

Thousand Cankers Disease

Photo: Kansas Department of Agriculture

A tree branch exhibiting the spots of dead tissue characteristic of Thousand Cankers Disease, a fungal infection that targets walnut trees.

The first discovery of the deadly fungus that causes Thousand Canker Disease, the deadly tree fungus, has been reported in Indiana. Scientists discovered the fungus in Brown County during a survey of forest pests and fungi.

Lenny Farlee, a forester at Purdue University, says Thousand Cankers Disease is caused by tiny beetles that burrow into the bark of Black Walnut Trees. As the beetles burrow deeper, they spread the fungus that kills the tree’s tissue, creating dead sores, called cankers.

“As these fungal cankers gradually coalesce, they will girdle the tree stems,” he says. “They will gradually wilt and die, and then the tree dies.”

According to the Department of Natural Resources, no actual trees in Indiana have been infected with Thousand Cankers Disease yet. However, two beetles carrying the fungus were found in Yellowwood State Forest near Nashville.

An interesting sidenote: Scientists say this is the first time the fungus has been spotted on any insect other than the Walnut Twig Beetle, the disease’s historic vector.

The two trees near where the beetles were found have since been destroyed and the area has been placed under quarantine.

About $21.4 million worth of Black Walnut wood is harvested in Indiana every year, making it the state’s most valuable tree.

State entomologist Phil Marshall says while forestry officials should be concerned, now is not the time to panic about the effect on the timber industry.

“There’s concern, but it’s going to be some time before that has a significant impact,” he says.

In the meantime, foresters say there’s no need to cut down walnut trees or take other drastic measures. Abiding by the Indiana’s existing rules about moving timber and firewood in and out of the state should be enough.

Marshall says Purdue University and the U.S. Forest Service are planning a follow-up investigation.

For about a decade, Thousand Cankers Disease has been infecting trees in America’s Southwest, where walnut trees are nonnative and thus more prone to infection. However, in recent years the fungus has been popping up in Midwestern states such as Tennessee and Ohio.

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