John Deere’s Stump Treatment – A New Business Opportunity

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Aaron Burmeister has the first John Deere stump treatment system used in the United States. This spraying system is providing a new business opportunity for Burmeister Logging

What Is Annosus Root Disease?
Many of our readers may feel like I did when we received an interview article from John Deere about annosus root rot disease (ARR). I was not familiar with annosus root rot and suspect that quite a few of our readers have at most a passing knowledge of it.
ARR is a disease that prefers deep sandy and sandy-loam soils that are common along the Southeastern coastal regions. It generally enters a timber stand after a thinning. Airborne spores land on a freshly cut stump, germinate, and grow into the stump and its roots, rotting the roots as the fungus grows. The infection becomes a problem when the infected root of a cut tree is in contact with the roots of a healthy standing tree. The fungus will grow into the standing trees’ roots and the tree will flood the infected root with resin to wall off the fungus. If enough roots of the standing tree are infected, the tree will die. Infection can also start through wounded roots due to firebreak plowing, food plot maintenance, or wild hog feeding.
The ARR fungus is slow growing, usually growing less than one meter per year. Tree loss due to ARR typically will last seven years after the thinning. The most losses come three to five years after thinning, and the disease is normally inactive after 10 years.
To try an avoid annosus root rot, thinning is recommended during the summer when fewer spores are produced.
ARR is a commercially important disease of all conifers; loblolly and slash pine are the most severely affected. It typically enters the tree through a wound, grows through the heartwood into the roots, and causes decay in the root system.
After identifying ARR in a few stands, strongly suspect it in other stands if there is some combination of the following conditions: 1) pine stands with dead and dying trees often in clusters or rows, 2) trees leaning or blown over from lack of supporting roots, 3) stringy white rot of wood in roots and/or butt, 4) sparse crowns with off-color needles, often with abundant cones, 5) resin-soaked root areas with discolored, dead, or rotted end sections, 6) mortality in second or third year following thinning and continuing for several years, and 7) pine stands infested with southern pine beetles or lps bark beetles.
ARR is a serious disease that affects trees throughout the U.S., but it is most serious in the South and the West. ARR can kill trees but also weakens trees making them more susceptible to wind damage and attack by bark beetles. The disease is caused by a fungus that produces shelflike mushrooms, called conks that are tan or reddish brown on top and white or yellow underneath. Conks are typically produced at the base of a tree; they produce spores that are released and carried by wind to newly cut stumps or wounds on trees.
In the South and Northeast, dry granular borax has proven to be a successful chemical treatment. Immediately after a tree is cut, borax powder is sprinkled liberally on the stump surface with a saltshaker-type applicator.
Since freshly cut stumps are the primary source of new infections, reducing the number of thinnings in a stand growing on a high-hazard site will reduce the incidence of annosus root rot. Pine plantations severely infected with ARR should be clear-cut and regenerated. Salvage or improvement cuts in severely damaged stands can increase the incidence of ARR, as well as leave the stand under stocked.

John Deere Introduces ARR Stump Treatment –
A New Business Opportunity
Nortrax, the largest John Deere construction and forestry retailer in the United States, brought in the first Deere stump-treatment kit from Finland to Aaron Burmeister of Burmeister Logging in Seymour, Wisconsin, near Navarino, Wisconsin. Wisconsin is on the frontline of a global battle against annosus root rot.
While there are treatment methods in place, Aaron decided to approach Nortrax and John Deere to see if they could help him find a better solution. ARR was discovered in Wisconsin about six years ago in the Golden Sands region that runs from Marinette down towards a region just north of Madison. It gets into red, white, and Scotch pine.
Landowners and the Department of Natural Resources in that area were concerned about the ARR and discussed the need for a stump treatment. When he purchased a new John Deere harvester in 2008, Aaron decided to get their stump-treatment kit as well. He was hoping to be ahead of the curve and be the go-to-guy for cutting red pine.
Aaron said that he has won some logging jobs because he provided the Deere stumpage treatment system. Initially only Wisconsin state lands were requiring treatment, but consultant foresters are now putting out bids that require it as well.
DNR regional managers are starting to really push ARR treatment because they do not know how long ARR will stay in the soil even after all the infected trees are dead and gone. There are some reports stating it may be 100 years or more before you can safely grow pine again.
Since annosus is occurring in droughty soils, where the affected pine species are planted, you typically can’t convert it to farmland. The reason the trees are there in the first place is the land couldn’t sustain crops for farming. There is a need to maintain the land in some kind of timber.
Previously treatment involved a backpack or some type of fruit sprayer or sprinkling granulars with a shaker type technique.
Aaron is now using John Deere’s treatment method with a 26 gallon tank mounted on his John Deere 1270D Harvester. Aaron uses this system to spray stumps during the cutting process. The old way of coming in after cutting the trees misses some stumps because they can’t be found through the tops and slash.
Aaron said, “I get 100% coverage. I can also put down herbicide and kill the stumps of invasive species, just the opposite of what we’re trying to do with pine. With annosus, we’re treating a stump to keep the fungus from getting in. But with a species like black locust, for example, we don’t want it to sprout. We put down Garlon 4 because we want that stump gone. With pine we spray with Cellu-Treat, a boron-type chemical, to prevent ARR.”
The person in the seat applying the chemical needs an applicator’s license, and the company needs to be licensed as a business. Aaron said, “As a logger in the cab spraying, I need to be licensed. And as Burmeister Logging I need to be licensed.”
Aaron indicates that a 26 gallon tank typically lasts about two eight-hour shifts. Using a Deere spraying system saves the labor and time that used to be spent walking around and spraying.
When asked who sets the regulations for handling Cellu-Treat, Aaron responded, “The Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection is the national organization that regulates the chemical. Wisconsin has really taken the lead on annosus root rot. Other states that have it may not worry about it. They’re going to take their losses and move on. Wisconsin has decided to try and control this for as long as possible, which is consistent with its approach to other diseases.”
While Deere initially developed its stump treatment kit for the European market, Aaron’s experience has demonstrated that the system works just as well in the United States. Highlights of the design include an easy-to-install and remove bar along with tanks mounted within the tracks to reduce the risk of damage to the unit. The tanks hold the borax-based solution, which is sprayed through holes in the saw bar, ensuring complete coverage at the time of cutting.
This method of combating annosus root rot involves treating the stump immediately after cutting with a borax-based product, like the granular Sporax or spraying with Cellu-Treat.