Disease Threatens Missouri’s Nation-Leading Walnut Crops

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Missouri is gearing up to repel an invasion that has the potential to devastate a major agricultural export.

It may come as a surprise to many that Missouri leads the nation in the production of walnuts.

“We have almost twice as many walnut trees as any other state,” says Simeon Wright, a forest pathologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Wright’s concern is something called Thousand Cankers Disease, a condition as awful as its name which is spread by small beetles.

“The fungus causes thousands of tiny cankers, or infections, of that tree all over the trunk and the branches and that’s what causes the tree to die,” Wrights explains.

The disease has appeared in states east and west of Missouri but hasn’t been detected here yet. According to the Wright, prevention is key because once a tree has been infected, there isn’t a way to stop it.

The Conservation Department has put a quarantine in place, preventing walnut tree products from coming to Missouri from infected states. However, it is much harder to control private citizens who bring in firewood for the winter and Wright says that is why his department is trying to spread the word about this threat.

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