Tree disease threatening Missouri walnut industry

7:11 PM, Oct 13, 2013   |    comments
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Lincoln County (KSDK) -- It's an industry that brings millions of dollars into Missouri each year.  Timber from The black walnut tree is among the most valuable in the world, and missouri is the world's leading producer.  But soon, the industry may be under attack.

Bruce Beckmann owns a black walnut tree farm in Lincoln County.  He planted his thousands of trees with his own hands and has put decades into caring for them.  And he does the work so future generations can benefit.

"It will be my grandchildren and great grandchildren that benefit from the proceeds of this effort," said Beckmann. 

But Beckmann's legacy is in danger.  Thousands Cankers Disease, or TCD, is killing black walnut trees across the country. And it's moving toward Missouri.

"It's inevitable, it's going to come," said walnut tree farm owner Harlan Palm, who has become a major advocate for finding a solution to TCD.

Not only could the disease ruin a life's work for tree farmers, it would also kill trees in urban areas and in people's yards.  And when TCD strikes, it could hit the state's economy hard.

"There's not a more valuable tree in the state," said Bruce Beckmann's son, Glenn, who is now President of the Missouri Chapter of the Walnut Council.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the state's industry is worth more than $850 million over a 20 year period.

"When this disease comes into the state that industry [could] be completely gone," said Glenn Beckmann.

When a tree gets TCD, what happens is that the walnut twig beetle eats its way inside the bark, creates a hole, then the fungus that beetle brings with it infects the tree, ultimately killing it.

"It will take 80 to 100 years to get here if it was strictly reliant on the beetles.  But man as a vector can move it literally in a truck or a vehicle overnight," said Palm.

So farmers and the Walnut Council are working to get funding and build awareness.  Because they'll need help in stopping the spread of the disease and in finding a way to reverse it.  It's the only way people like Bruce Beckmann may have hope that their legacy will live on.

"I absolutely have hope, yes, and I have faith too," said Beckmann.

If you'd like to help, the Walnut Council is asking you to express your concern to lawmakers.  You can contact U.S. Senator Roy Blunt by clicking here.

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