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Foley Hosts Invasive Tree Field Day Event

11/03/2015 12:00:00

Foley hosted an invasive tree field day event October 30 northwest of Newton. The event included educational presentations from the Kansas Forest Service, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Kansas State University’s Department of Entomology along with representatives from K-State’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) program from their Salina campus.

A Huge and Growing Problem
While native to North America, the Eastern Redcedar is considered an invasive species as it is not indigenous to the Kansas prairie. The Eastern Redcedar makes a great wind block and many were planted after the dust bowl days of the late ‘20s and early ‘30s.

It was never anticipated that these trees would become the problem that they are today but that’s what has happened. The Eastern Redcedar presents problems for farmers and ranchers looking to open up or better utilize land for crop production or grazing. Left unchecked these trees will continue to overtake the prairie, draining the soil of nutrients and water and changing the landscape. In Kansas alone between 1965 and 2005, there has been a 23,000% increase in Redcedar volume.

Foley Field Day Events
Once established, the only way to reduce the infestation of the Redcedar is to cut them down. Management programs to address the problem are referred to as “cut and stunt” in which trees are cut down and the remaining stump chemically treated to prevent it from growing back.

Following the educational presentations, Field Day attendees had the opportunity to see Foley representatives demonstrate a number of Cat Skid Steer machines with different types of tree saws, shears and mulching attachments for skid steers that can be used to significantly speed the removal process.

                       

Larry Biles, State Forester – Kansas Forest Service, talks about the history of the invasive Redcedar. The Kansas Forest Service is involved in regular cataloging and inventorying of forest resources in the state. Not only is there a cost associated with the invasion but the Eastern Redcedar represents an opportunity for a new industry in the state. One of the more common products is cedar mulch. More innovative uses include the production of biofuel which is being used to power boilers at a number of universities in Missouri. Another process turns the waste into biochar, a product similar to activated carbon, which is used as a filter medium for the removal of toxins in air and water or industrial production processes that require filtration.

 

Dusty Tacha, Rangeland Management Specialist – Natural Resources Conservation Service, provided information on Redcedar and other invasive species and chemical and physical treatment methods to control or eliminate the problem.

Dr. Brian McCornack, Associate Professor, Department of Entomology - Kansas State University, talked about his use of drones to track aphid infestations.  Drones can be used to track bugs or to track the infestation of invasive trees. Computer models can interpret the imaging or other data to determine the biomass of the trees, providing an estimate of the cost of unproductive land or a revenue estimate from clearing the land or other revenue-generating opportunities. For example, the modeling estimate might determine how many more cattle could be grazed if the trees were removed or it might determine the estimated BTU output of the energy that could be derived from the waste stream in the form of a biofuel.

 

Trevor Witt, Data Analyst, and Travis Balthazor, Pilot, from K-State’s UAS program located at the Salina campus ready an octo-drone for flight. In addition to Dr. McCornack’s presentation on drone applications, Witt and Balthazor spoke about current and emerging FAA requirements regulating drone flights. A flight plan was for the event was filed with the FAA and the required number of individuals were present to monitor the flight activity.

 

The camera on the drone produced this image of the event demo site. Taken from about 200’, Cat machines and attendees are easily recognizable in the high-resolution image.

  

A Cat 299D Skid Steer running a SS Eco Mulcher (left), and a Loftness G3 Carbide Mulcher (right). Both attachments have the ability to fell and mulch a tree from the top down in one or two passes depending on the size and species of the tree. Treatment of the stump typically involves spraying with a combination of an herbicide mixed with diesel fuel.