We asked experts from five leading companies: “What’s one thing tree care companies need to keep in mind when implementing a disease/pest control program?”

Here’s what they had to say:

Brian Pancoast
President/Enviurometrics Systems USA

The one thing to keep in mind is to fully analyze the situation. Knowing the pest, your treatment options and your customer’s pesticide tolerance can lead to the best outcome. Knowing the pest includes not only the biology, but also its habits and preferences. Do they have mouthparts? Do they crawl on the trunk? Do they prefer specific species of tree? There are typically many options available for controlling pests, from chemicals to adhesive bands. The most effective is usually a combination of these methods. For example, applying an ingestible chemical or biological may be fine for a feeding stage, but totally ineffective for a stage in which the insect has no mouthparts. In this case, banding may be a better choice. Ultimately, what you use depends on the pest and your customer’s tolerance for chemical use on their property. Knowing the environmental side effects of the products you use will allow you to better advise your customer.

Chip Doolittle
President/ArborSystems

It takes time and training — and what happens if a key employee jumps ship and starts his/her own company, leaving you holding the bag? ArborSystems equipment is easy to operate and has online videos and instruction guides, so someone can get up to speed quickly. Cross-training employees is important so that they understand the capabilities of the equipment and the processes involved. Continual education is also key, as pests and diseases come to new geographical areas.

Jason Fausey, Ph.D.
Research Scientist/Nufarm

When designing a pest control program, the first step is to gather as much information as possible. Start with a visual inspection of the site to gain knowledge if irrigation is installed and utilized, the water drainage patterns and size/scope of the property and plant material. This determines if an application is required and what method will be used. You may find a single, large tree growing over a swimming pool where soil or bark applications may be required. Alternatively, the primary plants may consist of small, woody shrubs growing in open beds where foliar sprays would be most appropriate. You should also ask about the history of the plant material. Many insects and diseases return annually — knowing if sap starts dripping from the trees in June would indicate insects producing honeydew are a pest. Thus, the need for some extra, early-season scouting becomes justified.

Russ Davis
Chief Operating Officer/Arborjet

I would suggest spending significant time up front researching the latest tools before designing an approach to a particular market. A lot has changed in the last five years — new tools, regulatory requirements and consumer views have changed what we use and how we apply. For example, consumers don’t want to see tall tree spraying in their neighborhoods. Risks of off-target effects are a real concern, not to mention the $65,000 paid for the rig. In these situations, many tree care professionals are purchasing significantly smaller spray rigs and using new tools like trunk injection for taller trees. Trunk injections are sealed in the tree, limiting environmental impact and usually providing faster, long-term control. The other advantage newer trunk injection technologies bring is the ability to spread out demand. Many of these products last for one to two years, which allows you to treat in autumn for early spring pests, rather than trying to do everything in a short spring window. There are also many new, industrial-quality organic solutions available that can separate you from your competition.

Jim Goodrich
Product Manager/PBI-Gordon

Keeping trees healthy is the best way to minimize damage from disease and insect pests. Proper tree maintenance should be implemented, which begins with ensuring the tree is in the correct landscape setting (i.e. not too big or crowded and not struggling for nutritional resources. The best defense from pest pressures is having a healthy tree, and having the right plant materials in a landscape is crucial to the health of all the species in the landscape. Of course, even healthy trees are susceptible to insects and diseases, so choosing the correct control products for the job is necessary. So, knowing your region and the pests present make the task of selecting control products for your program an easy one.