Disease

Protect yourself from ticks and tickborne illnesses

Bill McNee, forest health specialist, Oshkosh, Bill.McNee@wisconsin.gov or 920-360-0942

Adult deer tick. Credit: Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, bugwood.org.

So far this spring we are off to a busy tick season, with many reports and photos being sent in to DNR staff. Ticks can be found year-round in Wisconsin but are most active from May to September. Some species, including the deer tick responsible for Lyme disease, carry infectious diseases that elevate them from mere nuisance to serious health threat.  Lyme disease is most often spread by very small, immature ticks known as “nymphs.” Adult deer ticks can also transmit Lyme disease, but because they are larger, they are more likely to be discovered and removed compared to the tiny nymphs which can be as small as a chia or sesame seed.

Continue reading “Protect yourself from ticks and tickborne illnesses”

Needle and leaf diseases are back!

Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg, Michael.Hillstrom@wisconsin.gov, 608-513-7690

It’s nearly summer and the usual cast of disease characters are on the scene following wet spring conditions. Rhizosphaera needlecast and other needle diseases impacting spruce continue to be a major concern for landowners and homeowners. Diseases in hardwoods are also popping up. For more information on needle and leaf diseases affecting trees in Wisconsin and resources to learn more, click below to read full article. 

A row of spruce trees with dead branches and missing needles caused by Rhizosphaera needlecast.

Spruce trees impacted by Rhizosphaera needlecast.

Continue reading “Needle and leaf diseases are back!”

Protect oaks from oak wilt by waiting to prune

By Don Kissinger, urban forester, 715-348-5746, don.kissinger@wisconsin.gov and Paul Cigan, forest health specialist, 715-416-4920, paul.cigan@wisconsin.gov

To protect oak trees from the often-fatal oak wilt disease, don’t prune, cut or injure oak trees from April through July. 

Pruning and cutting oaks in spring and early summer leaves them vulnerable to oak wilt, which rapidly kills trees in the red oak group and weakens those in the white oak group. Any damage during this time, including broken branches caused by storms, exposes living tree tissue beneath the bark and provides an opportunity for the oak wilt fungus to infect the tree.

Sap-feeding beetles introduce the disease by carrying oak wilt spores from infected trees or firewood to fresh wounds. Healthy oaks can become infected in as little as 15 minutes after the creation of a wound. 

Sap-feeding beetle on diseased oak tree in Sawyer County.

Sap-feeding beetle on diseased oak tree in Sawyer County.

The trees most likely to die from oak wilt infection are in the red oak group, including northern pin oak, northern red oak, red oak and black oak. The white oak group is more likely to survive infection and includes bur oak, swamp white oak, white oak and English oak.

Tree paint or wound dressing is not normally recommended on pruned or wounded surfaces, but for damaged oaks an immediate light application of these products may be the only defense against oak wilt infection from April through July.

Pruning in spring can be damaging to any deciduous tree because their energy reserves are low as they produce new buds and leaves following the winter months. In general, the best time to prune is in winter when trees are dormant. 

As of January 31, oak wilt has been found in all Wisconsin counties except Ashland, Iron, Forest, Taylor, Door, Kewaunee, Calumet and Manitowoc counties. Several of these counties contain the highest abundance of healthy and productive oak forests in the state. Taking recommended precautions will help keep them that way for years to come.

Oak wilt and other diseases move easily on or in firewood logs year-round, so keeping firewood local, or purchasing Wisconsin-certified firewood, is another important component of protecting trees and keeping forests healthy. Visit the DNR firewood page for more information and a directory of certified firewood vendors.

More information, including a recently released oak wilt video, is available at the DNR oak wilt page. Additional information about proper pruning techniques is available from community foresters or through DNR resources such as this tree pruning poster

Revised Heterobasidion root disease guidelines now available

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has released updated guidelines to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of Heterobasidion root disease (HRD) in Wisconsin through preventive stump treatments. The revised guidelines became effective on January 1, 2019, and a professionally designed version will be available soon. Woodland owners are strongly encouraged to work with a professional forester to make management decisions about HRD and preventive stump treatments.

Pocket of HRD-caused thinning and mortality in red pine plantation, Grant County.

Pocket of HRD-caused thinning and mortality in red pine plantation, Grant County.

Heterobasidion root disease is one of the most destructive diseases affecting conifers in the Northern Hemisphere. In Wisconsin, HRD is most commonly found in pine and spruce plantations. Infection by the wood-decaying Heterobasidion irregulare fungus kills living tissues and leads to growth loss and tree mortality. Spores landing on a fresh cut pine or spruce stump will infect that stump and root system and spread via root contact to neighboring trees, killing them as it invades their root systems. This pattern of spread creates pockets of dead and dying trees that expand outward. Growth reduction of trees leads to economic losses for plantation owners, and mortality of trees, including seedlings and saplings, has long-term implications for future stand composition and management.

The HRD stump treatment guidelines are designed to help make decisions about the use of preventive stump treatments when harvesting a stand. These treatments limit disease introduction by preventing fungal spores from developing on the exposed surfaces of newly cut stumps.

Cutting bar on logging equipment spraying blue chemical used in HRD stump treatments.

Pesticides used in stump treatments can be applied using logging equipment (blue mist exiting through nozzles in saw bar) or backpack sprayer.

Stump treatments are typically recommended between April 1 and November 30 if a stand is within 25 miles of a known HRD infection site and the stand is more than 50% pine and/or spruce. However, there are other factors to consider when deciding whether to use the preventive stump treatments. Certain situations when you may not need to treat stumps, referred to as “Exceptions” and “Modifications” in the guidelines, consider variables such as economic feasibility, landowner risk tolerance, unexpected weather patterns and future desired stand composition. Highlights of the revised stump treatment guidelines include:

  • Timing of treatments and general distance recommendations did not change from older guidance
  • Addition of spruce as a species recommended for stump treatment
  • Additional Exceptions and Modifications where treatment may not be necessary
  • For private landowners with a higher risk tolerance, a 6-mile radius from known infection sites can be considered when evaluating whether to apply treatments
  • Even if a stand is considered at low risk for HRD infection, woodland owners should carefully consider the potential impacts to their stand if preventive treatments are not used and HRD becomes established

Along with the guidelines, a web-based HRD map viewer has been launched. This interactive map displays confirmed HRD locations and 25-mile and 6-mile radius buffers around HRD locations. The purpose of this map is to help users determine whether a stand is within either the 25 or 6-mile buffers where stump treatments are recommended. You can enter an address or GPS location, turn map layers on and off, and zoom in and out to an area of interest.

If you would like more information about HRD or these guidelines, visit the DNR HRD webpage or talk to your regional forest health specialist.

New northern oak wilt detections

By Paul Cigan, forest health specialist, Hayward. Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov; 715-416-4920 and Linda Williams forest health specialist, Woodruff. Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov; 920-360-0665

Oak wilt (OW) was confirmed for the first time in Bayfield and Douglas counties and in 16 new northern townships in 2018. The new OW infections occurred on a range of properties, including county, tribal, private, U.S. Forest Service and Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) forest health staff are working proactively with affected property managers and landowners to address these infections and prioritize disease prevention and detection in the future.

 

Oak wilt distribution map. Confirmed counties are displayed in red. Confirmed townships are displayed in pink 6-mile square blocks.

The greatest risk of overland transmission in northern Wisconsin is from April 15 to July 15, when fungal spores readily infect open wounds. Most of these new cases occurred during this time frame due to stem and branch damage. The primary causes of damage were roadside brush clearing, pruning, lot clearing and storm-caused branch breakage. Fungal spores may have come from diseased oak firewood and unprocessed wood recently transported into these areas.

Image shows a group of oak trees. Northern red oak on far left is in wilting stage of disease (leaves on but wilting and dropping). Oak on far right has mechanical root collar injury. Dairyland Township, Douglas County.

OW disease center. Oak on far left was infected through belowground root contact with tree damaged in lot clearing (far right). Dairyland Township, Douglas County (photo taken by Paul Cigan).

If oak wilt is present in or within 6 miles of the county where you manage oak, your management activities may be affected by seasonal harvesting restrictions to reduce OW introduction and impact. Read DNR’s oak harvesting guidelines for more information and refer to the list below of new 6 square mile blocks by township and county to see if OW has been detected near your property.

Bayfield County
Barnes T45N R9W
Cable T43N R7W
Drummond T45N R8W
Douglas County
Dairyland T43N R15W
Gordon T44N R11W
Langlade County
Elcho T34N R11E
Langlade T33N R13E
Neva T32N R11E
Sawyer County
Couderay T39N R8W
Hayward T41N R8W
Hunter T40N R7W
Round Lake T41N R8W
Spider Lake T42N R7W
Vilas County
Boulder Junction T42N R6E
Lac du Flambeau T41N R5E, T40N R5E
St. Germain T40N R8E

Please report any suspected oak wilt infections to your local DNR forester or regional forest health specialist and learn more about oak wilt identification and biology on the DNR oak wilt webpage. To learn more about firewood rules and how you can help reduce transmission of pests and diseases, including oak wilt, visit the DNR firewood page.

10 oak leaves lain on downed log display bronze discoloration typical of oak wilt. Midrib and base of leaf are still green.

Bronzed leaves fallen from infected oak. Leaves were observed beneath infected northern red oak. Cable Township, Bayfield County (photo taken by Paul Cigan).

Heterobasidion root disease in Monroe County

By Todd Lanigan, forest health specialist, Eau Claire. Todd.Lanigan@wisconsin.gov; 715-210-0150

Heterobasidion root disease (HRD), formerly known as annosum root rot, was recently found in Monroe County for the first time in the town of Little Falls. With this detection, HRD is now known to occur in 28 Wisconsin counties.

HRD distribution map. Counties where HRD is present are shown in blue with most recently confirmed county shown in dark blue.

Fruiting bodies of the pathogen, Heterobasidion irregulare, were found on dead overstory red pine and both live and dead white pine saplings in the Big Creek Fishery Area. The 20-acre stand was a red pine plantation established in 1958 and last thinned in 2012. Wood samples were collected to isolate and identify the pathogen through microscopic identification at the Forest Health Lab in Fitchburg.

Image of multiple spores viewed under microscope. Conidiophores look like Q-tip heads.

Microscopic spores isolated from wood samples and confirmed as HRD in Forest Health Lab.

Based on this new find, a number of townships were added to the 25-mile buffer zones used in determining appropriate management activities according to the HRD Management Guide. There will be a one-year grace period for implementation of the guide in these townships.

The Forest Health Program has records of all confirmed HRD detections. If you suspect this disease is present in a stand, contact your regional forest health specialist.

For more information about HRD, visit the DNR Forest Health webpage.

Public comment period for HRD treatment guidelines revision closes October 16

A fruiting body of Heterobasidion irregulare at the base of a pine tree.

By Kyoko Scanlon, forest pathologist, Fitchburg. Kyoko.Scanlon@wisconsin.gov; 608-235-7532

Wisconsin DNR is seeking public comments on a proposed revision to preventative treatment guidelines for Heterobasidion root disease (HRD). Stand-level HRD treatment guidelines were originally released in 2013. A DNR technical team and stakeholder advisory committee proposed a revised version using recent research findings, operational experience, and economic considerations.

The draft document and information about the public comment process can be found at  https://dnr.wi.gov/news/input/Guidance.html#open through Tuesday, October 16, 2018. All comments must be submitted by that date.

Leaf-browning on white and burr oaks

By Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg. Michael.Hillstrom@wisconsin.gov; 608-513-7690

Dying leaves on white oak. Photo: Mike Hillstrom.

Dying leaves on white oak. Photo: Mike Hillstrom.

During late August and September of this year, Forest Health staff received several comments about problems with white and burr oaks. Leaves on affected trees turned brown, curled and died prematurely. Some trees were almost completely affected, while others only mildly. Symptoms varied widely between trees, even between those located next to each other. After examining several samples, the DNR Forest Health Lab concluded that damage was likely caused by fungal leaf pathogens and the twig canker fungus Botryosphaeria. Because the damage occurred late in the growing season, afflicted trees will not likely suffer major impacts. Although Botryosphaeria can cause twig dieback, oak trees usually recover without long-term problems. Continue reading “Leaf-browning on white and burr oaks”

Spruce needle rust not an issue this year

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff. Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov; 920-360-0665

Orange fruiting bodies of spruce needle rust erupt from needles. From a distance, the tree appears orange due to colored pustules on the needles. Photo: Linda Williams

Orange fruiting bodies of spruce needle rust erupt from needles. From a distance, the tree appears orange due to colored pustules on the needles. Photo: Linda Williams

Occurrences of spruce needle rust in northeastern and north central Wisconsin is low this year for the first time since 2013. Spruce needle rust, caused by the fungus Chrysomyxa weirii, infects spruce needles. Fruiting structures erupt from needles in August in shades of pink, yellow, and orange, greatly affecting the appearance of the trees. In addition, infected needles drop off, causing trees to look sparse.

No treatments are available for already-infected needles. Preventative fungicide treatments for yard trees may be used the following spring and early summer, but treatments must be applied before symptoms appear. Repeated treatments will be necessary; the fungicide, which must fully coat needles to be effective, washes or wears off over time.

Widespread crown dieback and delayed leaf-out of bur oak

by Paul Cigan, forest health specialist, Hayward, Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov. 715-416-4920 and Todd Lanigan, forest health specialist, Eau Claire, Todd.Lanigan@wisconsin.gov, 715-210-0150

Typical appearance of bur oak with crown dieback associated with cynipid gall wasp infestation in northwest WI during early summer, 2018.

Bur oak showing moderate crown dieback. Photo: Paul Cigan

Bur oak with heavy crown dieback and delayed leaf flushing in Polk County.

Bur oak with severe crown dieback. Photo: Paul Heimstead

Widespread dieback of twigs and branches and delayed leaf-out were present on bur oak trees this spring in Barron, Burnett, Chippewa, Eau Claire Polk, Rusk, and Sawyer counties, and in parts of central and east central Minnesota. Crown dieback of between 10 – 50% was observed in both mature and sapling-sized trees, although it was more common on open-grown trees and those along woodland edges. Tufted or “broomed” leaf shoots were apparent, a result of epicormic shoots developing below dead twigs and branches. Most impacted trees recovered well by early July as crowns filled in with leaves and epicormic shoots. Leaves in recovered trees appeared generally healthy and normal-sized.

Continue reading “Widespread crown dieback and delayed leaf-out of bur oak”