BLACKSBURG, VA --  Researchers at Virginia Tech may have found a new way to treat Emerald Ash Borer-infected ash wood that will be used as firewood.

Treatment Found for Borer Infested Firewood

Current USDA standards require ash firewood to be heated to a core temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of one hour. Scientists at Virginia Tech are experimenting with using a vacuum and steam treatment to kill the insect in ash firewood. Earlier studies conducted by the university team showed the combination of vacuum and steam treatment was effective in eliminating “insects, molds, fungi, and nematodes in green and dry hardwood pallets and green pallet parts,” according to the USDA.

To test the theory on the borer, which has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees across the country, the researchers tested wood known to be infested with the beetle at a facility at West Virginia University. After a five hour treatment the wood samples were free of living borer larvae.

Effective treatment of the firewood may allow it to be transported out of quarantine areas, the USDA reported.

The emerald ash borer was first discovered as the cause of extensive ash tree deaths throughout southeastern Michigan in June 2002. It is believed the borer entered Michigan from China at least 15 years ago, presumably from solid wood packing materials or dunnage used to transport manufactured goods.

Attention is now turning to using lumber from the trees killed by the Emerald Ash Borer. The Southeast Michigan Research Conservation and Development (RC&D) Ash Utilization Options Project funded a demonstration project using Emerald Ash Borer wood at the Ann Arbor Traverwood Branch Library. Harvested ash trees from the building site were milled into flooring, wall and ceiling paneling, and shelving. Some of the harvested trees were used intact as support beams and columns.

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