what to do when

Asked October 1, 2015, 9:53 AM EDT

It looks as if my pine trees are sick,they started turning brown after the super wet late spring and early summer rains we had .I live in northwest Ohio and this problem has spread to the tree next to it,that tree also started in the middle then spread up and down .there is still some green on them ,but I really dont want to loose them.Do you have any suggestions?

Williams County Ohio

1 Response

Pine trees turn brown from inside out for a variety of reasons. Pinpointing the most likely cause in your tree is important to keeping it healthy. Austrian pine and Scotch pines are particularly susceptible to disease here in Ohio, but since you mentioned the Amount of rain we have had this year and last year being so dry, I suspect the trees have been stressed by environmental impact. I will, however, include other possible causes and solutions.

Environmental causes:

In years of heavy rain or extreme drought, pine trees may brown in response. Browning is often caused by an inability of the pine tree to uptake enough water to keep its needles alive. When moisture is overly abundant and drainage is poor, root rot is often the culprit.

As roots die, you may notice your pine tree dying from the inside out. This is a way for the tree to protect itself from total collapse. Increase drainage and take measures to prevent pines from standing in water — if the tree is young, you may be able to trim the rotted roots away from the plant. Proper watering should allow this condition to correct itself over time, though the browned needles will never re-green.

If drought is the culprit for needles browning in center of pine trees, increase watering, especially in the fall. Wait until the soil around your pine tree is dry to the touch before watering again, even in the heat of summer. Pines don’t tolerate wet conditions – watering them is a delicate balance.

Pine Needle Fungus and other fungal diseases

Many types of fungus cause brown banding in the center of needles, but needles browning in the center of pine trees is not always indicative of any particular fungal disease. If you’re certain that your tree is getting the right amount of water and no signs of pests are present, you may be able to save your tree with a broad-spectrum fungicide containing neem oil or copper salts. Always read all label directions on any product, since some fungicides can cause discoloration on certain pines.

Pine Trees and Bark Beetles

Bark beetles are insidious beasts that tunnel into trees to lay their eggs; some species may spend most of their lives inside your tree. Usually, they won’t attack trees that aren’t already stressed, so keeping your tree well watered and fertilized is a good prevention. However, if your tree has many small holes bored through branches or the trunk weeps sap or has a sawdust-like material coming from them, it may already be infected. Your pine tree may suddenly collapse, or it may give a warning with droopy, brown needles.

The damage is caused by a combination of bark beetle tunneling activities and the nematodes that ride along with them into the heart of pine trees. If you’re seeing symptoms and signs of bark beetles, it’s already too late. Your tree needs to be removed because it poses a very real safety hazard, especially if branches contain bark beetle galleries. Limb collapse can cause serious damage to anything on the ground below.

As you can see, pine trees turn brown from inside out for a variety of reasons. Pinpointing the most likely cause in your tree is important to keeping it healthy.

If you are still in doubt as to what the problem is, I would suggest you take a sample (including limb, stems and needles) to your local extension office and ask them to look at it to confirm if beetles or fungus is the cause. That office is at 1425 E. High St. in Bryan. Phone (419) 636-5608. You could also hire an arborist to diagnose the problem on site.

Good luck. I hope you can save your pines.