CORVALLIS - The College of Forestry at Oregon State University has formed a new research cooperative to address the growing threat from the spread of Swiss needle cast, a damaging plant pathogen of Douglas-fir trees.

Although this foliage disease is well-established in the Pacific Northwest, damage from it has skyrocketed just in the past two to three years, experts say. The new Swiss Needle Cast Cooperative will study many questions.

"While hard data are lacking on the extent and severity of the problem, the potential economic and ecological losses are enormous," said Gregory Filip, an OSU associate professor of forest science.

The first reports of damage from this pathogen were only reported in the early 1980s, Filip said, but now more than 130,000 acres in Oregon alone are severely affected. The foliar disease can cause trees to lose their older needles after one or two years and show progressive loss in height and diameter growth.

"It's imperative that new research be conducted to learn practical methods of disease detection and management," Filip said.

Research will focus on the biology, detection, and management of Swiss needle cast in coastal Douglas-fir forests, growth and yield impacts, and other topics. Workshops and newsletters will help disseminate research findings and survey results.

The cooperative members include OSU; four local, state and federal forestry agencies; and 13 private forest product companies. All members will help fund and support the work of the cooperative, and at least five OSU faculty members will be heavily involved in research.

Projects currently under way include aerial and ground surveys of coastal forests, studies of tree volume growth loss, and basic infection biology and genetics of the fungus. Planned research includes the effect of the disease on tree physiology, identification of trees with genetic resistance, and development of strategies for management of the problem.

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Gregory Filip, 541-737-6567