Michigan government, nonprofits and corporations collaborate to fight oak wilt disease

The Oak Wilt Coalition is a new partnership between private, nonprofit and governmental organizations to help increase awareness about the serious threat of oak wilt disease in Michigan.

Led by the Arboriculture Society of Michigan, the partnership also includes representatives from the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan State University, ReLeaf Michigan, and various electric utility companies and tree-care companies.

Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is spreading among trees in Michigan and many other states. It has been confirmed in much of the Lower Peninsula and in the western portion of the Upper Peninsula, as shown in this 2016 oak wilt map.

This disease is lethal to many oak species, including red oaks, pin oaks and black oaks. It can be transmitted by insects moving to fresh wounds on trees, including those caused by pruning. The fungus also can spread through root systems, causing death of nearby oak trees.

Oak wilt initially causes wilting of leaves, ultimately killing otherwise healthy trees within a matter of weeks. The effects can be dramatic and costly when mature trees die and are removed, especially in highly maintained landscapes, parks and recreation areas. Prevention and management are possible with disease awareness, proper identification and timely response.

The coalition’s goal is to coordinate and promote a unified information campaign describing oak wilt, its threat and impact in Michigan, and to provide science-based advice aimed at prevention and management. Information will be developed and housed online at www.michiganoakwilt.org and is for everyone from homeowners and landowners to foresters and tree-care professionals.

By coming together and creating a coordinated message about this tree and forest health issue, the Oak Wilt Coalition believes that Michigan’s citizens and the professional tree-care industry will be better informed to make proper management decisions helping to prevent the spread of this disease and ensuring the health of oak trees in Michigan.

Current research at MSU aims to understand oak wilt specifically in Michigan and lend scientific data to guide oak wilt management decisions. To find out more, visit: www.michiganoakwilt.org.