WOOSTER, Ohio — The Ohio State University Extension Nursery, Landscape and Turf Team's (ENLTT) recent educational road trip to Minnesota is an excellent example of what universities, communities and industry — not to mention states — stand to gain when they collaborate and share resources.
ENLTT — an interdisciplinary collection of OSU Extension educators and specialists with expertise in horticulture, insects, plant diseases and other aspects of the expanding green industry — packed a couple of vans with 15 of its members and a plethora of teaching resources last July 6 en route to the Twin Cities, stopping along the way in Michigan and Wisconsin to check out invasive plants, insects and diseases such as beech bark disease.
The group spent July 8-9 in and around the Twin Cities, delivering a series of presentations for the Urban Forestry Institute and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
Highlights included a "Why Trees Matter" program attended by more than 120 green industry professionals, university specialists, community and elected officials, and nonprofit horticulture professionals. This part of the study tour was an outreach effort of OSU Extension's Why Trees Matter Signature Program (also represented in the foray), whose goal is to calculate the economic value of trees' environmental services and help people make better, smarter tree choices to realize these benefits — healthier air, cleaner water, lower energy costs, higher property values and more.
"University of Minnesota specialists have requested that the program CD with our PowerPoint presentations be copied and sent to all University of Minnesota Extension offices," said Jim Chatfield, OSU Extension horticulture specialist, ENLTT member and Why Trees Matter Program co-coordinator. "Minnesota Public Radio also conducted numerous interviews with team members and broadcast coverage of the program. Our pitch about the environmental, social and economic benefits of urban forests was certainly well received by Minnesotans."
The Why Trees Matter educational track included presentations on "Determining Current Tree Value in Your Community," "Tree Inventories and Evaluation," "Proper Tree Planting and Soil Basics," and "The 20 Questions of Plant Problem Diagnostics," among others.
Another related tree topic that hit close to home in the Twin Cities was emerald ash borer (EAB), the notorious invasive insect that has killed millions of ash trees in 13 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces and which was discovered in St. Paul just a little over two months ago.
Having dealt with EAB since 2003 in Ohio, and having developed comprehensive educational materials and conducted innovative research related to this destructive exotic pest, ENLTT members shared their expertise and experiences of what works and what doesn't with industry professionals, city arborists and planners, elected officials, and fellow university specialists.
"The real-life examples and applicable research Ohio State's ENLTT presented helped impress upon those in attendance just how devastating EAB will be in Minnesota," said Ralph Sievert, director of forestry for the city of Minneapolis. "Knowing that Minnesota has more ash trees than Ohio and Wisconsin combined makes EAB a major threat to a valuable resource in our state. The team's balanced approach provided key information that will be needed by Minnesota's decision makers as we devise the best plan possible for lessening the impact of EAB."
With ashes comprising 20 percent of Minnesota's urban forest (there are 200,000 ash trees in Minneapolis alone), this was truly a teachable moment for communities and the green industry regarding the importance of diversification in urban tree plantings, said Amy Stone, ENLTT member and coordinator of the Ohio State University EAB Outreach Team.
"It was very helpful having the Ohio group talk about our experiences and relating that to what the people in Minnesota are now dealing with, and also preparing them for what's coming," Stone pointed out.
Also providing their EAB expertise were team members Joe Boggs, OSU Extension horticulture specialist; Curtis Young, OSU Extension educator; and Dan Herms, OARDC and OSU Extension entomologist.
OSU Extension is the outreach arm of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.