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How to fight the blight

POSTED August 8, 2017 2:50 p.m.

 The “tree calls” have truly been pouring in lately. A number of pine trees in our area have been turning brown in places. The culprit in many cases is tip blight. The past two springs we have experienced wetter than normal weather patterns that have helped this fungus gain a hold. On top of that,  older trees that were compromised from the drought several years ago and have damaged root systems, and are having a hard time combating the disease.

What is Tip Blight? It is a disease caused by a fungus called diplodia. 

This is a spring disease that infects newly developing pine shoots as they start to grow. The fungal spores are spread by spring rains. In late May or early Junes, the symptoms are easily seen as the new shoots are stunted and the emerging needles are stunted and brown. The damage usually starts in the lower branches and works its way up over several years. In additions to infecting the newest growth, the fungus can invade older tissues when trees are highly stressed or if they have been wounded. 

Removal of dead branches can improve the appearance of diseased trees, but will not prevent infection throughout the tree. The fungal spores are attached to the cones, and can remain attached to the tree. 

The best way to combat this disease is to maintain tree vigor. An adequately watered tree will help it fight off the tip blight on its own. When a tree is drought stressed, it has less energy and resources to put into defenses against diseases.

Fungicides are available for the treatment of tip blight. The critical time for treatment is in the spring when new growth is expanding. This can be a costly and time consuming treatment though. Fungicides likely will be needed yearly with two to three treatments to protect the new growth. Thorough coverage is essential and a professional may be needed to treat larger trees.

If you have any questions about why your tree is looking unhealthy, you can get a hold of me at the Great Bend office by calling 620-793-1910, or by email at aboor@ksu.edu. 

Alicia Boor is an agriculture and natural resources agent in the Cottonwood District (which includes Barton and Ellis counties) for K-State Research and Extension. One can contact her by e-mail at aboor@ksu.edu or calling 620-793-1910.

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