The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

May 29, 2014

Oak leaves left in tatters

OTTUMWA — Trees throughout Iowa have been terrorized by the likes of Emerald Ash Borer and other dangers in the past months and now oak trees throughout Iowa are in a little bit of more trouble because of a disease called oak tatters. Thankfully, though, it doesn’t appear to be fatal to the trees.

According to Tivon Feely of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Bureau, oak tatters is basically a condition that causes the leaves of the tree to whittle away. The leaves look as though bugs have eaten parts of them, and they actually look to be in tatters.

“It’s when the foliage literally drops off the tree,” Feely said. “The veins are left, but everything else is gone.”

Although the actual tree doesn’t necessarily get damaged by oak tatters, it can cause the tree to be more susceptible to other factors. Then, they have to regenerate their lost leaves, and that reduces the energy reserves inside the tree.

Feely said they have been researching the causes of oak tatters for about 10 years, and one of the main theories is chemicals being used by farmers.

When farmers use chemicals in their fields some get into the air at the same time trees are budding, and the chemicals get into the forming leaves and can cause damage.

The timing of when the farmers put chemicals into their fields has to match up with the budding leaves perfectly, Feely said, so oak tatters doesn’t necessarily happen every year.

“We don’t see it most years,” he said. “With farmers getting into fields later this year and leaves budding later it just happened to be perfect timing. It’s just part of living in Iowa.”

Since oak tatters doesn’t happen on a year-to-year basis usually, people who have oak trees with possible oak tatters should not get worried and cut down every oak tree they can find.

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