The wellness of the country’s trees starts with the proper care of the ones we have locally.

Wellnitz Tree Care and the Lyon County Extension Office welcomed the public to Tree Care Academy Saturday.

“What we’re focusing on in this course is how trees work, how they grow and how what we do as arborists affects the trees,” President of Wellnitz Tree Care Randy Wellnitz said.

From 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., participants listened to presentations on various tree care subjects, including tree biology, the difference between proper and poor pruning cuts, the types of equipment Wellnitz uses for tree care and the growing threat of the emerald ash borer. They also got hands-on experience with pruning.

“I hope to always raise the bar in the industry when it comes to educating the consumer and teaching people what’s important about trees and how to not hurt trees,” Wellnitz said. “So many times we get called in after the problems have occurred, where mistakes have been made, and it’s hard to take it back. Once we damage a tree, it’s always damaged … It doesn’t heal like a person does.”

Through education programs like this, as well as emphasizing education within the company, Wellnitz Tree Care aims to prevent tree care issues and raise awareness throughout the community.

One participant was intern-in-training Corey Bishop, an ecology and biological diversity major at Emporia State University.

“I came because I actually didn’t get to attend a three-day conference that [Wellnitz] went to earlier this week, so I tried to come to this and extend my knowledge,” Bishop said.

Bishop said he looked forward to learning more about the pruning techniques and safety tips. He plans to follow a path that would put him in the future position of Plant Health Care Technician.

“They all seem like they know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about, so I know I’m in good hands here,” Bishop said about the Wellnitz Tree Care staff. He said the value Wellnitz places on education is “really important and really noble.”

By educating more people about proper tree care, the future of local, and consequently, national, trees has the potential to get healthier. Part of these educational sessions is to also “add professionalism to the tree industry and maybe motivate some people to jump in,” Wellnitz said.

He ensured the company is always hiring “good people” who have an interest in tree care and is happy to continue educating others through workshops like this. Wellnitz Tree Care is considering doing regular educational workshops.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, hire a professional, because you can do more damage trying to do something yourself,” current Wellnitz Plant Health Care Technician Skyler Delmott advised. He said to consider the company’s reputation and the value different tree care companies place on doing educated work.

Part of Delmott’s presentation was showing different pruning cuts to participants.

“Here’s something,” Delmott said. “Let’s look at it a little bit closer, clean it up, shine it up a little bit, and we can show how decay and disease is progressing through the tree.”

One topic of concern discussed was the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect that damages and kills ash trees if not caught in time. The infestation currently affects 35 states (including Kansas), Washington DC and five provinces of Canada. There are no cases on record yet in Lyon County, but professionals anticipate the pest will be detected soon.

“It’s an insect that could have been introduced in an area and we just don’t find it until the symptoms present themselves enough to be noticeable,” NC/NE District Community Forester with the Kansas Forest Service Kim Bomberger said.

“As we look at preparing for the emerald ash borer, I want to make sure that we start first with the fact that it is a very significant forest health threat for us here in Kansas [and the rest of the country].”

Bomberger shared with participants some ways to address the issue. The advice included, but was not limited to:

• Do not transport firewood. The insect could be living in the wood and can harm previously unaffected areas.

• Focus treatment on the healthiest trees. If a tree is already too damaged, it cannot be fixed, but a tree that is more healthy than sick can be repaired.

• Diversify the forest. Monoculture planting makes it possible for the pest to expand much faster, among other issues.

“If you expect that you have ash in a non-quarantined county, take pictures of the signs that you see … make sure that symptoms match, then we would ask that you report it to the Department of Kansas Agriculture,” she said. “For Lyon County, let’s not start applying chemicals just yet.”

In addition to the presentations, participants were provided lunch and spent the last remaining hours of the experience pruning some of the trees on-site at the Lyon County Extension Office.

For more information on Wellnitz Tree Care and arboreal education, visit WellnitzTreeCare.com. For more on the Lyon County Extension Office, visit Lyon.K-State.edu.

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