PLNA Pushes for Boxwood Blight Composting Research
Monday, September 02, 2013
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
HARRISBURG – With boxwood blight being introduced into Pennsylvania (see August e-News article), the proper disposal of infected boxwood plants have come under question. Best management practices dictate that infected boxwoods should be disposed of either by burning or burying.
But in Pennsylvania, it is illegal to dispose of yard waste in a sanitary landfill. In addition, many counties and local governments have banned open burning. Much of the yard waste created in Pennsylvania is now composted, either by municipalities or private composting facilities.
However, it has not yet been established that composting will kill the blight pathogen. If composting does not kill the pathogen, compost may become a vector for spread of the pathogen. PLNA has alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) of this problem. If the pathogen is not neutralized by composting, an educational program will be needed to attempt to keep infected boxwoods out of the composting feeder stream.
If the pathogen can be killed by composting, the conditions for neutralizing the pathogen must be established and implemented by composting facilities. Penn State professor of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, Dr. John Pecchia, has a research project ready to go to test whether composting can neutralize the boxwood blight pathogen. All he needs is the funding.
PLNA has been working with USDA and PDA to identify potential funding sources for the research.
In the meantime, if you suspect that you have boxwoods that are carrying the pathogen, please do not dispose of them by composing. Currently, burning or burying are the only acceptable means of disposing of infected boxwoods.