Monterey Pine Crown DiebackDecisions concerning tree removal are often complex and the following information is a general policy statement and not a substitute for on-site professional hazard tree evaluation.

Monterey pine, along with many other pine species, is susceptible to pitch canker. The earliest symptom of pitch canker is dieback in the canopy, caused by infections on individual branches. Infections on large branches and the main stem of a tree can lead to top-kill and, in some cases, death of the entire tree. Trees differ in their susceptibility to pitch canker (see "What is Genetic Resistance?"), but nearly all will sustain some infections. Thus, when a tree shows early symptoms of pitch canker, it is not possible to predict how far the disease will progress in that tree. Recent research indicates that approximately 10% of Monterey pines are at least somewhat resistant to pitch canker; and will not sustain serious damage from this disease. Furthermore, some trees that do become heavily infected will recover from pitch canker.


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Coastal Pitch Canker Zone of Infestation

Don Owen

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

zone of infestationOn June 4, 1997 the State Board of Forestry passed a resolution establishing the Coastal Pitch Canker Zone of Infestation. The Board’s action was prompted by ongoing concerns about the spread of pitch canker to new areas and impacts of the disease in areas where it currently exists. This is the first time the Board has established a Zone for a tree disease. The Zone encompasses all or parts of 21 counties on or near the coast from Mendocino County to San Diego County. The Zone includes all infested areas as well as adjacent areas that might reasonably be expected to become infested in the near future. The distribution of the disease is discontinuous and thus there are infested as well as uninfested areas within the Zone.

Long distance spread of the disease occurs when materials infected with the pitch canker fungus are transported to uninfested areas. Preventing disease spread is important because once pitch canker becomes established in an area there is no way to stop it from infecting and killing trees. No cure or preventative exists. While one goal for the Zone is to slow disease spread, neither the Board nor the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) has the authority to impose and enforce a quarantine on the movement of infected material. The Department does have the authority to impose conditions on the commercial harvest of trees from timberland within the Zone of Infestation. Such actions would be carried out on a case-by-case basis and depend upon the harvest operation’s potential to contribute to disease spread. For all timber operations regulated by the Department, the Department must be informed if pitch canker is present within the operating area.

Pitch canker is a "B"-rated disease by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. As a result, the local or destination California County Agricultural Commissioner may restrict the movement of known infected host material. If you are planning to move diseased material from an infested to uninfested area, contact the local and/or destination agricultural commissioner offices to determine if there are any restrictions.

Slowing disease spread can only be achieved through a cooperative effort among affected governments, businesses, organizations, and individuals. It is the intent of the Department to work with all affected entities to achieve the goals of slowing disease spread and reducing disease impact. Department staff are available to provide training and assistance related to these goals.

Forestry professionals throughout the state can help slow the spread of pitch canker by learning to recognize symptoms of the disease and taking appropriate action when the disease is encountered. The pitch canker fungus can be transported on pruning tools, firewood, logs, Christmas trees, seedlings, wood and bark chips, cones, seeds, and wood waste. The disease has heavily impacted Monterey and bishop pines, but we also know that most pine species and even Douglas-fir are susceptible. Here are some things you can do:

  • Know when you are in an infested area.
  • Do not transport infected or contaminated material to areas that are free of the disease.
  • When cutting or pruning a diseased tree, clean tools with a disinfectant before using them on uninfected trees.
  • If you are outside of the Zone of Infestation, contact Cal Fire or the County Agricultural Commissioner’s office to report trees you suspect might have pitch canker.
  • Make sure that clients and co-workers are aware of these guidelines.

Reprinted from Licensing News, Vol. 16 No. 2, October 1997. Board of Forestry, Professional Foresters Registration Program. p. 4-6

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