Winnipeg a test site for Dutch elm vaccine
WINNIPEG -- About 200 elm trees in Winnipeg will be the first in Canada to get vaccinated against Dutch elm disease. Winnipeg, which has among the highest number of elm trees of any city in North America, loses thousands of trees each year to the...
WINNIPEG -- About 200 elm trees in Winnipeg will be the first in Canada to get vaccinated against Dutch elm disease.
Winnipeg, which has among the highest number of elm trees of any city in North America, loses thousands of trees each year to the fungal disease spread by the elm bark beetle.
Manufacturers of the Dutch Trig vaccine say injecting a tree with the solution cuts its risk of developing Dutch elm disease to 1 percent.
"The injections are only good on healthy elm trees," said Joris Voeten, a master arborist with BTL Bomendienst, the Netherlands-based company that makes the vaccine.
Voeten was in Winnipeg on Tuesday to demonstrate the vaccine, approved for use in The Netherlands and the United States.
Health Canada has yet to approve the product, but a spokesman said an evaluation is completed. The agency's proposed decision on the vaccine will be up for public review shortly, he said.
Tests on trees in two city parks this summer will help arborists get familiar with the product, Voeten said.
To vaccinate a tree, arborists inject a drop of the solution every 4 inches in a ring around the trunk. The vaccine consists of fungal spores and water, and has been deemed nontoxic by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
"It's a purely biological product," Voeten said.
The vaccine can't help trees that are already infected. And protection doesn't come cheaply. The vaccine costs from $60 to $120 per tree, depending on the number of trees treated. But Voeten said the treatment pays for itself.
"The cost of the vaccine is easily offset by the fact that you don't have to cut down all of those elm trees," he said.
The cost of the trial will be covered by the vaccine manufacturers, who hope for federal approval by May 2010, in time for the next injection season.
City forester Martha Barwinsky said Winnipeg relies on pruning and tree removal to combat Dutch elm disease, as well as fungicide injections of 150 to 200 high-value trees annually. Dutch Trig "would be another tool in our toolbox," she said.
"A biological control is always an asset, and always something to look at," she said.
The city has lost about 4,400 elm trees per year over the past three years to Dutch elm disease, Barwinsky said.
Each year, about 2 percent of elm trees in Winnipeg die from the disease.
The province and city have spent more than $50 million fighting Dutch elm disease since it arrived here with the elm bark beetle in the 1970s.