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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C – Property owners can now apply for funding for pruning or removing Black Knot infected trees.

Around 60 per cent of cherry or plum trees in Fort St. John are infected with Black Knot, according to the city.

In order to combat the infection, the city received a $4,900 grant from Shell Canada’s Social Investment Program. The city will also be kicking in some money from the operating budget.

“Thanks to Shell Canada, we are able to help those property owners who may not have the means to be able to prune or remove trees that are infected with Black Knot. We are asking all residents and business owners to inspect all the trees on their properties to help combat the spread of Black Knot,” says Kylah Bryde, Parks Manager with the City of Fort St. John.

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). The funding will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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

A timeline of when the fungus arrived in the city and Peace River area is unknown, 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 tree’s death. 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 blooming.

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.

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