My spruce is dying

Asked August 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

I've been told it is a Blue Spruce. The tip of the bows are green, sometimes the tips die. the rest of the bow to the trunk of the tree is dead. We put fertilizer spikes at the drip edge in the fall of 2014. it has been this way for at least 10 years. What is wrong with it? and can it be saved? The tree is over 20 years old.

Coos County Oregon tree health horticulture

1 Response

Your picture didn't show the needles very well, I have a picture for you to compare with your tree. could this be the problem?

PNW Plant Disease Management Handbook
Printed page URL: pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/node/3937

Spruce (Picea spp.)-Rhizosphaera Needle Cast

Current-season needles mottle yellow then turn brown or purplish brown
Current-season needles mottle yellow then turn brown or purplish brown.
Unknown, in the OSU Extension Plant Pathology Coll
Picea pungens with needle necrosis
Picea pungens with needle necrosis.
Melodie Putnam, 2006.

Cause Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii is the most prevalent cause although several other fungi (such as R. pini, Lophodermium sp., Lirula sp.) can cause needle cast diseases on spruce. The fungus overwinters in infected needles attached to the tree or on the ground. Rain-splashed spores spread to current-season needles. Shearing crews also can spread spores if foliage is wet. Infection requires wet periods over 48 hours at optimal temperatures. Young trees may die if weather favors the disease several years in a row.

The disease has been described on Christmas trees in the Eastern United States and has been a problem in Pacific Northwest nurseries and landscape trees. Colorado blue spruce and Engelmann spruce are highly susceptible; white spruce is intermediate; Norway spruce is relatively resistant. Other conifer hosts include pine, Douglas-fir, true fir, and western hemlock.

Symptoms At first, current-season needles mottle yellow late in the summer. They soon turn brown or, on blue spruce, purplish brown. Brown needles are shed the next spring and summer. The fungus produces a fruiting body (pycnidia), which emerges from stomata. These small, black pycnidia are in rows on the underside of the needle. The disease is first on lower branches and gradually moves up the tree.

Cultural control

  • Use pathogen-free planting stock.
  • Avoid shearing and other operations if foliage is wet.
  • Avoid overhead watering in summer if plants will stay wet a long time.
  • Remove dead needles underneath and within the tree.

Chemical control Begin applying when new shoots are 0.5 to 1.5 inches long. Continue at 3- to 4-week intervals if weather stays very wet.

  • Bravo Weather Stik at 5.5 pints/A. Group M5 fungicide. 12-hr reentry.
  • CuPRO 2005 T/N/O at 0.75 to 3 lb/A (or 1 to 3 Tbsp/1000 sq ft) dormant or at 0.75 to 2 lb/A when new growth is present. 24-hr reentry.
  • Echo 720 at 5.5 pints/A. Group M5 fungicide. 12-hr reentry.
  • Mancozeb-based products. Group M3 fungicides. 24-hr reentry.
  • Protect DF at 1 to 2 lb/100 gal water plus 2 to 4 oz spreader-sticker.
  • Spectro 90 WDG at 1 to 2 lb/100 gal water. Group 1 + M5 fungicide. 12-hr reentry.
  • Tourney 50 WDG at 1 to 4 oz/100 gal water. Group 3 fungicide. 12-hr reentry.

Reference Skilling, D.D. and Waddell, C.D. 1975. Control of Rhizosphaera needlecast in Blue Spruce Christmas tree plantations. Plant Disease Reporter 841-843.

Pscheidt, J.W., and Ocamb, C.M. (Senior Eds.). 2015. Pacific Northwest Plant Disease Management Handbook.
© Oregon State University.

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