Current treatment methods to kill invasive pests in wood and wood products use either chemicals or extreme heat. Research Scientist Zhangjing Chen and Professor Emeritus Marshall White have developed a vacuum-contained steam method that is just as effective. In a test with firewood from ash infested with the invasive emerald ash borer, their method proved successful at killing all of the insect’s life stages and took less than half the time and 25 percent less energy than the heat treatment currently required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The portable treatment system, which can fit in a pickup truck bed, can be used to treat firewood, pallets, and other wood products on site. A larger, rigid unit that fits in a truck trailer to treat logs and large amounts of firewood is under development.

The researchers have applied the same technology to eradicate invasive snails from tile. The snails crawl onto pallets stored outside Mediterranean tile facilities and then burrow into the packaging materials once the pallets are loaded. After shipment to the U.S., the snails, which eat a number of plant species and can carry parasites, escape at ports and other locations along the distribution chain. The researchers are working with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to determine the right combination of vacuum and steam to kill the snails while preserving the integrity of the product, the packaging, and the pallets. The technology is also being tested for its effectiveness on diseases that affect trees, such as oak wilt and thousand canker disease.

Read the full press releases:

Steam and vacuum wood treatment for pests more efficient, less costly

Vacuum-steam treatment for invasive snails proves promising