Noticing the Brown-Tipped Evergreens

diplodia tip blight

Wallis et al. Ohioline Fact Sheet Diplodia Tip Blight

Winter is really the season for the evergreen trees.  There’s nothing like the beauty of snow-covered pines, spruces, firs – they are the stuff of winter landscape!

This brings me to a common disease of pines – Diplodia tip blight, caused by the fungus, Diplodia pinea. Austrian pines are particularly suspectible.  If you’ve seen an Austrian pine tree, you’ve probably seen clumps of brown needles – that’s likely the work of the fungus.  Austrian pines are often planted as street trees in this part of the country because they are tolerant to the road salt used for winter ice/snow control.

PhD candidate Patrick Sherwood and Professor Enrico Bonello in the Department of Plant Pathology are using the Diplodia-pine system as a model to study plant defense against pathogens.  They are delving down to the biochemical and molecular levels to study the complex, intriguing interactions between plant and fungus.

Many students are surprised to discover that plants indeed mount a defense response against pathogens. It’s not the same as the immune system of humans and animals, but there are key similarities as well as differences.

The use of disease resistant plants or crops is a cost-effective, environmentally sound management strategy.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – that’s especially true for plants.

Related article:
Diplodia tip blight > Ohioline Fact Sheet

“The Colors of Fall: Are Autumn Reds and Golds Passing Us By?”

The rich colors of the autumn leaves in this photograph (taken on campus) reminded me of an article by the National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network series: “The Colors of Fall: Are Autumn Reds and Golds Passing Us By?”

Several changes are afoot. Chestnut blight (a plant disease) has wiped out the majestic chestnut trees, which used to blanket forests with bright yellows and golds in the autumn. Hemlocks are threatened by the woolly adelgid, an invasive insect.  Drought and land use are also changing the forest landscape, exacerbated by a changing climate. 

There really isn’t any good news here, but it’s important.  These crises (plural) need our attention > Read full NSF article

Here’s a related article about current genetics and breeding research on chestnuts > APSnet article


Spring 2014: Molds, Mushroom and Mankind (PLNTPTH 2000) General Education course for non-science majors, Natural Science > Biological Science, w/o lab > More info