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Open Access Publications from the University of California

New pests and diseases: Sudden oak death syndrome fells 3 oak species

  • Author(s): Garbelotto, Matteo M.
  • Svihra, Pavel
  • Rizzo, David M.
  • et al.

“Sudden oak death” refers to a complex set of symptoms that has already culminated in the death of tens of thousands of California oak trees. Now confirmed in seven coastal counties, SOD attacks California tanoak, coast live oak and California black oak. Although several fungal species and the western oak bark beetle and ambrosia beetles have been associated with the syndrome, we now have solid evidence that a newly discovered Phytophthora species is the primary causal agent. This Phytophthora species was recently isolated in rhododendron as well; it may be the same species that was isolated, but not described, on rhododendrons in Germany in 1993. The discovery of SOD on rhododendron has serious implications. The disease may well be present at the ecosystem scale, and its appearance on an ornamental plant suggests the possibility of wider dissemination. A team of UC scientists has developed an integrated approach to managing this disease, including practices to enhance tree health. Early disease detection and targeted chemical treatment may also hold some promise for disease management. In addition, we have developed a molecular probe that will enable rapid identification of SOD from any infected part of the plant. Ultimately, the fate of the oak species affected by SOD will be determined by the levels of disease resistance present in natural populations of these trees.

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