Saskatchewan

Fight against elm tree killer disease goes organic

A Saskatchewan couple have developed what is being described as a promising, and natural, compound in the fight against Dutch elm disease.

A Saskatchewan couple have developed what is being described as a promising, and natural, compound in the fight against Dutch elm disease.

The killer disease has steadily crept into the province and municipalities are concerned about the future of their highly prized urban forests.

Now a couple of former greenhouse operators who have been quietly toiling away on a natural product to protect plants from fungal infection, say their formulation is ready for field testing on Dutch elms.

Bob and Linda Mullin, from Ceylon, Sask., told CBC News they have spent 12 years and nearly $200,000 researching their compound.

"I knew this was a powerful fungicide," Bob Mullin said. "I just wanted to try it on something much harder to control, and so we did."

There are no commercial products to combat Dutch elm disease and the only treatment is to promplty cut down and remove infected trees to contain the spread.

In the summer of 2008 the Mullins learned of a patch of trees outside of Regina that were infected with Dutch elm disease. They injected their compound and, this summer, some of the trees seem to be recovering.

Now a university specialist in forest pathology has been testing the Mullin compound.

Louis Bernier, from Laval University in Montreal, told CBC News that the formulation has promise. Bernier said they have been applying the fungicide on two types of Dutch elm disease cells.

"In the lab we did test the organic products against both growth forms of the fungus and we found the compound was actually toxic against the fungus in both forms," Bernier explained.

He added that success in the lab does not always translate to results in the field.

"We are quite interested in what comes of this testing," Jeff Gooliaff, Saskatchewan's Dutch Elm Disease Program administrator, told CBC News.

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