A research team in Auburn University’s College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment, or CFWE, is working to find solutions to an increasing threat to pine forests—needle blight.
Through a $2.1 million U.S. Forest Service grant, Lori Eckhardt, a professor of forest health, and her team members in the college—Joseph Fan, associate professor of forest ecology and statistics; Lana Narine, assistant professor of remote sensing and modeling; and Janna Willoughby, assistant professor of population and conservation genetics—are aiming to determine the impacts on productivity and biological causes of needle blight.
Insect pests and fungal diseases are a great concern to the forest industry, as costs associated with damage caused by non-native pests and pathogens within forests throughout the U.S. in 2000 were estimated to be valued at approximately $4.2 billion annually.
The Alabama Forestry Commission, or AFC, has been receiving phone calls since early spring from landowners and the public regarding pine needles suddenly turning brown. Many of these calls have come from counties in the northwest and northeast regions of Alabama. The disease has been confirmed in 36 of 67 Alabama counties.
Historically, the disease has only infected longleaf pines, or Pinus palustris, but in the last few years, the disease also has begun to infect loblolly pines, or Pinus taeda, in young and mature stands.
(Written by Gracen Carter)