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MSU expert says Auburn trees will likely not survive

February 17, 2011

Given the high concentration of poison found at the site of the historic trees at Auburn University, experts say the trees are not likely to survive.
Soil samples were taken to Mississippi State University for testing.
Auburn University said in a statement Wednesday that a herbicide commonly used to kill trees was applied “in lethal amounts” to the soil around the two trees. Auburn discovered the poisoning after taking soil samples on Jan. 28, a day after a man called a syndicated radio show based in Birmingham saying he had used herbicide on the trees.
Dr. David Shaw, vice president of research and economic development at MSU said the herbicide used on the trees was Tebuthiuron, or Spike 80DF, labeled for use to control oaks and many other shrub and tree species.
Shaw said it is safe for humans but very potent on species such as oaks, and was fairly easy to detect.
He said the herbicide is readily available for certified pesticide applicators.
Shaw said the trees will begin showing symptomology after the leaves begin emerging.
Given the high concentrations of herbicide found Shaw is not optimistic that the trees will survive.
“Over a period of a few weeks this will worsen and ultimately they will die,” Shaw said.
In addition, Shaw said Auburn University will have to either plant species that are tolerant to the herbicide or excavate the soil and replace it with uncontaminated soil.

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