Efficacy and optimal timing of low-volume aerial applications of copper fungicides for the control of red needle cast of pine

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Stuart Fraser
Mike Baker
Grant Pearse
Christine L. Todoroki
Honey Jane Estarija
Ian A. Hood
Lindsay S. Bulman
Chanatda Somchit
Carol A. Rolando


Disease management, disease control, pathogen, Oomycete, foliar Phythophthora, pine needle disease


Background: Red needle cast (RNC) is a foliar disease of radiata pine (Pinus radiata D.Don), caused by Phytophthora pluvialis Reeser, Sutton & E.Hansen and occasionally Phytophthora kernoviae Brasier, Beales & S.A.Kirk. The disease has impacted plantations in New Zealand since at least 2008. To develop management recommendations for red needle cast, research has focused on identifying chemical control options and understanding pathogen epidemiology to guide optimal timing of spray application. The objectives of this study were to: (1) assess the efficacy of aerial copper fungicide application for the control of red needle cast in mature radiata pine plantations; and (2) investigate optimal spray timing.

Methods: To address these objectives, three operational-scale field trials were undertaken in successive years between 2017 and 2019 at a forest in the Central North Island of New Zealand. RNC severity was assessed in canopies of forest blocks exposed to cuprous oxide applied at 0.855 kg ha-1 active ingredient in low-volume aerial spray at different times of the year (November, February and April (or May)). Needle cast from plantation trees and infection levels on trap plants were also assessed in some years.

Results: Application of cuprous oxide significantly reduced RNC severity in all three trials. As well as reducing disease severity, application of cuprous oxide also tended to reduce needle cast from plantation trees and infection on trap plants in years when these were also assessed. No consistent effect of spray timing was observed. Generally, all three spray timings reduced disease severity compared to the unsprayed control, but differences were not always significant, and few differences were detected between different spray timings.

Conclusions: The results reported here are the first to show that low-volume aerial applications of cuprous oxide applied at 0.855 kg ha-1 active ingredient can reduce the severity of RNC in commercial radiata pine plantations. No consistent effect of spray timing was detected. These findings support the development of management recommendations for RNC.

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