Funded Research Projects: FOREST ECOLOGY

Modeling the spread of Heterobasidion root disease in red pine

Research Sponsored By: US Forest Service
Principal Investigator: Patrick Tobin
Project Description
Heterobasidion root disease (HRD) is one of the most destructive diseases in temperate coniferous forests throughout the world. In North America, the causal fungus is H. irregulare and pines are primary hosts. In the great lakes region, HRD has been observed mainly in red pine plantations in Wisconsin (25 counties), Michigan (16 counties), and Minnesota (1 county). Red pine grown in plantations where thinning operations occur appear most susceptible. H. irregulare has conk-like fruiting bodies that produce large amounts of wind-dispersed spores that can travel hundreds of kilometers from their source. Spores that land on freshly cut stumps can germinate and establish the disease. HRD then spreads from an infected tree to its neighbors through root contacts. Infected trees exhibit thin crowns, reduced growth and eventual mortality. A keystone attribute to the management of HRD in red pine plantations is an improved understanding of the factors that affect its establishment and spread. Knowledge of HRD establishment and spread is critical to assessing current and future economic impacts, which aid in the development of improved management guidelines. The primary objective of this project is to analyze existing data to estimate establishment and spread rates of HRD, which will support the development of an optimal management model.