Cherry Trees Present Unique Challenge at Nationals Park

Raking the dirt between second and third base, Larry DiVito, head groundskeeper for the Washington Nationals, pauses to take in his surroundings. In a few hours, the ballpark’s nearly 42,000 seats will be filled with a sea of red and white, as cheers of “Go Nats!” rain down. 

Nationals Park has given the team and their fans something they’ve wanted since the team returned to Washington, D.C. in 2005 – a place to call home. 

Prior to this season, the Nationals played at Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy (RFK) Stadium, home of the Washington Redskins from 1961 until 1996. While RFK served its purpose as an interim home, both the organization and their fans eagerly awaited the new park.

Situated in the thriving Capitol Riverfront section with a view of the nation’s capitol and the Washington Monument, Nationals Park has been worth the wait. “Fans have embraced the new ballpark and we couldn’t be happier,” DiVito says.  “From the front office to our ticket takers, everyone feels the excitement around here.” 

In addition to the sights and activities offered, there is an attraction unique to Nationals Park synonymous with the Capital Region itself — cherry trees. Adorning the entrance ways and the left field bleachers, Nationals Park is the first Major League Baseball ballparkto have the signature Washington D.C. tree on site. “There are 35 cherry trees planted in all, with 16 planted in left field and 19 along the entry ways,” says DeVito.

But the cherry trees could potentially cause headaches for DiVito and his crew. Young saplings are susceptible to diseases and insect pests, such as black cherry aphids. Measuring little more than three millimeters in length as adults, aphids cause significant damage in high populations. Adult and nymph aphids suck the sap out of the leaves, resulting in curled leaves and distorted stems.

An effective new tool for controlling black cherry aphids is CoreTect tablets from Bayer Environmental Science. When Bayer learned of the team’s plans to plant cherry trees at the new park, it worked with the Washington Nationals with a CoreTect plan to prevent insect infestation and ensure the health of the trees.

DiVito applied a 2.5 gram tablet to the base of each tree. The controlled-release properties of CoreTect provide insect control throughout the year and allow plants to better survive harsh environmental conditions, including drought, heat and poor soils.

CoreTect tablets systemically trigger enzymatic pathways that promote more efficient use of energy, nutrients and water, facilitating stress-mediation. More efficient utilization of energy allows plants to both combat stress and promote root and shoot growth.

“The cherry trees are a fan favorite and we want to make sure they thrive and are enjoyed for years to come,” explains DiVito. “CoreTect provides us the protection and control we need to make that happen.”

Turning his attention to the warning track, DiVito takes note of the fans beginning to trickle in for the evening’s game. The team has been on the road for the past week and it’s been a while since DiVito and his crew has heard a good “Go Nats!” chant.


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