LSU of Alexandria Collaborates with USDA to Investigate Trees Infested by Beetles in Wake of Big Storms
July 01, 2021
Protecting Louisiana’s Top Agricultural Industry
Students and faculty at LSU of Alexandria (LSUA) are collaborating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to document the impact hurricanes and tornadoes have on insects in southern forests. Downed and damaged trees can be fertile feeding and breeding grounds for bark- and wood-boring beetles, which potentially can spread to healthy trees. With forestry being the largest agricultural industry in Louisiana and storms expected to grow stronger, resulting in more damage—both immediate damage from wind and longer-term collateral damage due to insect infestations—the work has vast implications. Together, LSUA and the USDA intend to gather data to help forest owners make better management decisions to protect trees and a $10-14 billion homegrown industry.
“With the expected increase in hurricane damage and surges in pest insect populations following these storms, we want to set realistic expectations and advise owners on the best long-term forest management practices,” said Brian Sullivan, entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Southern Research Station in Pineville, Louisiana.
The joint research takes place in the two-year wake of hurricanes Laura and Delta last year, which tracked straight across the western and northern part of the state, causing unprecedented damage to more than 1 million acres of Louisiana forest and much of the Kisatchie National Forest.
Concentrated in the northern and western part of the state, Louisiana forestry produces both pulpwood and sawtimber. Each year, the state sells enough boards to circle the Earth more than sevenfold.
“This was the first time I’d seen anything like it; we were concerned about a major outbreak in standing, living pine trees. I’m very interested to see what [LSUA and the USDA Forest Service] will discover, if they can pick up a shift in patterns. As forest managers, we strive to ensure our forests are healthy and well managed. All of our decisions could be influenced by the type of research they’re doing.”- Molpus Woodlands Group South Central Operations Director Joe Pokorny, who manages 360,000 acres of Louisiana forest and received worrisome reports about beetle infestations in the wake of Hurricane Laura last fall