USDA Forest Service researchers at the Southern Institute of Forest Genetics (SIFG) in Saucier, MS are mapping genes in the pathogen that causes fusiform rust to provide future forest managers with more insurance against the damaging disease.
Fusiform rust, a fungus that forms spindle-shaped galls on the branches and stems of pine trees, is endemic to the southern U.S., occurring from Maryland to Florida and west to Texas and southern Arkansas. Attacking several southern pine species, the fungus is most damaging to loblolly and slash pines. Both the frequency and severity of the disease have increased dramatically over the last 50 years.
"In old-growth natural forests, pine and fusiform rust co-evolved without severely limiting one another," said Tom Kubisiak, research geneticist at SIFG, a unit of the FS Southern Research Station. "In modern intensely managed plantations, planting limited numbers of the most highly productive families has actually contributed to an epidemic of fusiform rust."
Zoë Hoyle | SRS
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