Speaking of Pine Diseases


Now is a really good time to check for Dothistroma Needle Blight on Austrian, Ponderosa and Mugo pine trees. A pine sample from south central Kansas just came into the K-State Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab with classic symptoms. This disease tends to show up in crowded, mature pine plantings. The key is crowded plantings that lead to poor air circulation. Wet weather and poor air circulation all lead to increased disease severity. The last few years have been ideal for this disease.

If you are trying to sort out winter damage from Dothistroma needle blight, the first thing to do is to look into the bottom of the tree. Dothistroma causes needle shedding and tends to be more severe in the bottom of the tree. Essentially when you look into the bottom of the tree, the interior needles are gone and all of the lower limbs tend to be bare. Next take a look at the foliage. The needles will have scattered spotting and a half needle scorch. The outer needle tip will be brown and the inner portion of the needle will be green. Each needle will be affected in a different location.

You can contrast this with winter burn, which can also produce a half needle scorch but will always burn all of the needles back in exactly the same location. Plus, the damage tends to be on the outermost foliage.

The last thing to look for is raised dark fruiting bodies (acervuli) on affected needles. This is diagnostic sign for the disease. You may need a magnifying glass or 10X hand lens to see them, although when they are fully mature they are visible with the naked eye. The fungal fruiting bodies don’t start developing until late December or January, so now is a good time to look for them. If you don’t initially see them you can put the suspect needles in a Ziploc bag with a wet paper towel. The high humidity will help the fruiting bodies pop out. Dothistroma needle blight and winter damage can look very similar. If you are going to spend money to treat for the Dothistroma needle blight disease then it is a good idea to confirm that the disease is present. Samples can also be sent to the K-State Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab at the following address. For more information on managing this problem see the pine disease fact sheet at the following Web link. http://www.plantpath.ksu.edu/DesktopModules/ViewDocument.aspx?DocumentID=943

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