FORT ST. JOHN, B.C – Funding will soon be available for property owners to deal with the ongoing black knot tree fungus infestation.

The City of Fort St. John received a $4,900 grant from Shell Canada’s Social Investment Program to aid businesses and residents looking to prune or remove infected trees before the Spring.

The Shell funding is set to be released this month with the City kicking in some money from the operating budget.

“It is excellent that a grant to provide support for the Black Knot eradication has been received. This effort will be further supported through the recruitment of an arborist in the city as well as the pursuit of other grant funding opportunities and public communications where possible,” says CAO Milo MacDonald in a report to be presented to council on February 22nd.

Residents can apply through the City’s website and will be contacted by City staff to arrange a field assessment to create a plan for each infected tree(s).

City staff will deliver notifications to specific locations that have infected trees to provide information about the grant program.

A timeline of when the fungus arrived in the City and Peace River area is not known, but a Pest Management Plan was created in 2019 to deal with the infestation.

“It is imperative that the entire community works together to combat Black Knot in Fort St John as the spores are carried by wind, rain and/ or animals to other trees, and is not bound to the borders of municipal or private land. Black knot affects mostly cherry and plum trees,” says the report.

The disease spreads quickly, deforms branches, stunts growth and eventually can contribute to the death of the tree. The mature fungus is a black nodule, gall or knot on the tree and is more difficult to identify in early stages with small swelling(s) on the branches of new growth.

The City says identifying and correctly disposing of black knot fungus is crucial in avoiding infection to nearby cherry trees. The best time to prune is when the tree is dormant in the fall/ winter to avoid spores being released when the tree is in bloom.

The City will conduct annual follow-ups and routine monitoring to reduce the infestation in the community.

Residents planning new plantings are asked to choose an alternative species from the cherry trees.

For more information on the fungus, head to the city’s website.