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Bug Threatens Missouri's World Leadership In Black Walnuts

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's reputation as the world's leading producer of walnuts is facing a threat from Thousand Canker Disease.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A disease could threaten Missouri's title as the world's leading producer of walnuts.

It's called Thousand Canker Disease (TCD); the culprit is a little beetle that attacks black walnut trees.

The beetles are hard to detect and they plant fungus within trees, which is what slowly kills it. It can take years to cause cankers in a tree, but once started, there's no saving it.

"Black walnut trees grow wild here in Missouri. We're blessed with an abundance," says Brian Hammons, president of Hammons Product Company, which is a processor and supplier of American black walnuts.

Hammons says a recent disease could potentially be a threat to Missouri's walnut tree population.

"Thousand Canker Disease was identified in Colorado and there's a beetle that spreads a fungus and that was killing some of the black walnut trees there."

The disease hasn't been identified in Missouri, but it could if it's not contained.

"The concern was, will that spread into the east?"

While the fungus doesn't affect the walnuts themselves, the long term danger could be that a lot of the trees will die.

"The fungus the beetle spreads actually causes the tree to die. If the trees die, they don't produce nuts, and so that's a threat to our long term future, and so for in Missouri, the largest but producing state, it could be an economic problem."

You can help keep Thousand Canker Disease of Missouri by not moving firewood and other untreated walnut wood products into this state, and by identifying and reporting early symptoms and signs of the disease.

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