Vitamins Help Trees Fight Pests

Article excerpt

Vitamins are not only good for people, they also may keep plants healthier. Trees given the vitamins C or E can resist insect and disease attacks better.

The vitamins stimulate trees to increase their natural defenses against such harmful insects as gypsy moths and bark bettles, says Dale Norris, a College of Agricultural and Life Sciences entomologist. In field and laboratory work, Norris and researchers Fanindra Neupane and John Haanstad found that the vitamins reduce leaf loss caused by insect feeding.

Urban foresters and homeowners could use the vitamin treatment as a preventive measure to induce healthy trees to become even more resistant prior to attacks, says Norris.

Norris also has successfully tested vitamin treatments on soybeans, snap beans, sweet corn and other vegetable crops. Because they are not pesticides, vitamins don't harm the environment of require governmental regulation.

"Here we have compounds that give plants definite defensive protection and we can use them immediately," Norris says.

Norris cautions, however, that not all trees respond equally to the treatment. "The results we are finding depend upon species, variety, or individual trees," he says. "In the future, we can work with breeders and nurserymen to breed and select plants for genetic lines we know will respond to the vitamins."

Insects and the disease-causing microbes they carry often combine to injure or kill trees. For example, certain bark beetles transmit Dutch elm disease. Other bark bettle species and their associated microbes are responsible for causing several other tree diseases. …