By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn & Polk Counties
The short answer, unfortunately is ”yes”, but the news was clearly mixed when researches and land managers gathered for the Annual Meeting of the Swiss Needle Cast Coop (SNCC) in Corvallis on December 4. They met to review progress in learning more about this native disease, how it affects trees and forests, and how to manage forests in the affected areas.
The meeting included updates on this year’s aerial survey, progress in establishing the next generation of research plots across western Oregon, the effects of thinning and other management activities on foliage retention and growth, and improvements in remote sensing and growth modeling abilities. Some of the things I picked up this year included:
- The disease is intensifying but not expanding greatly. That is to say, we are certainly seeing more severe disease symptoms in places, but mostly within areas where it has been a problem before, and the footprint of highly affected area does not seem to be growing very dramatically. The disease was detected on over 586,000 acres in 2014, which is up significantly from 18 years earlier (131,000 acres in 1996). The main area of impact remains near the coast, generally within 25 miles, except for an active area around Mary’s Peak.
- Thinning pre-commercially does seem to help improve needle retention, but only in the healthiest trees and in the lower part of the live crown.
- Unlike other stressors, such as drought, it seems that SNC-weakened trees are not highly attractive to Douglas-fir beetles.