Any Christmas tree growers with fir trees, and fir-blueberry rust

mephisto(z5b MA)December 4, 2012

Hi, and if I may, i'd like to post a sort of initial inquiry, as to whether any upper U. S. A. or Canadian Christmas tree plantation operators who happen to have BALSAM FIRS or other fir species, happen to be around. And would be willing, if applicable, to help me with information for my research project.

(This post is going to need to be on the long side, just so anyone reading will know that in advance..._)

Growers in other areas happening to have a lot to do with balsams or other firs (Abies_) species also of interest to me IF they happen to be in an area with wild blueberries by their site--nearby AND happening to find their blueberries getting the "witches broom" disease from firs (or it could be considered the blueberries infecting the firs_). This in the disease that makes "witches broom" disease growths on the BLUEBERRY BUSHES (NOT on the fir trees_)--looking, often, like small whisk brooms, either green and alive or dead. (This is "not" the disease that makes witches brooms on the FIRS and is sometimes called the same name. The "witches broom" disease i'm thinking of, is the other one, the one called Pucciniastrum goeppertianum, scientifically, or by another "popular" name besides witches broom, sometimes also known I guess as fir-blueberry rust; also I guess sometimes known as fir needle rust).

I start out pointing toward far north growers, because I believe that they might be more likely to grow balsam firs, since they're native up here (and also possibly in some more southern mountain areas, I think, or some other firs might be wild there or grown there on plantations. Idaho and Colorado, too, I think, as to wild balsams_).

Even more who might have experience, would appear to be northern wild blueberry growers who, I think, very often get witches broom disease of blueberries a lot in their wild blueberry farms.

All of which is a lot of talking, toward the point which is
I'm hoping to find someone who knows things of this disease sort of on the balsam or other fir tree side--things about sort of how severely, under what circumstances, how permanently (or does it happen to be or appear to be non-permanent in a fir tree that gets it?_) and maybe anything else that comes to mind, other than maybe the most basic that to some point I may know already (such as , apparently it forms lines of spore capsules or similar, on one side of the needles, capsules usually white or yellow, spores that eventually burst out or are released, may be yellow or possibly orange). Especially important might be how much disease pressure a small amount of infected trees (or maybe one really big balsam, such as I have next to my experiment site_) appear to be able to put on nearby blueberries. If I could get information to help figure out whether this big balsam "of mine" is infected, how long it's been infected, etc--basically, how much pressure it itself may have been putting, and for how long, on the immediate one acre boggy-swamp full of blueberries, that alone would help a great deal(!)

The project I'm doing and have been doing for about fifteen years, is one that's working with this disease hoping to come up with some kind of answer, other than pesticides, to control it or better yet potentially start defeating it.

I don't know if this disease is definitely a serious one with plantations that include firs such as balsams, but I did see it listed in a list of ten Christmas tree diseases and how to treat them. On the blueberry side, as blueberry growers may know,especially growers of the wild ones, to date no known existing cultivars seem to exist. And little or no treatment plan seems to be known (other than, if planting fresh, trying to locate away from firs. or,if running a wild plantation, eradicating the cohost firs nearby, either of which isn't necessarily that often possible.)

If it might be any incentive or encouragement to help, either case, tree grower or blueberry grower, would a cure for this disease stand to be a real help to your farm and your industry?

Working hard on it, and so if you have solid knowledge on this that I am lacking, I'd appreciate your sharing if you'd be willing to take a few moments !

Thank you.

Sincerely, "mephisto," grower(of blueberries_)/experimenter in Massachusetts

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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

I was at a seminar this summer conducted by a plant pathologist from Michigan State University and he mentioned working closely with the Christmas tree growers in the state on various maladies. I will see if I can get a name for you.

All I know of the disease is that Abies is the alternate host and it does cause yellowing of needles but I don't think it does much damage to the fir.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 6:38PM
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mephisto(z5b MA)

Thank you, tsugajunkie.
That's interesting about the rust you learned about, maybe causing little damage to the firs AND causing, though, yellowing of the needles. Both what I think tends to be the case with the one I'm involved with, the witches broom fungus (Pucciniastrum goeppertianum, scientifically. Maybe that pathologist in fact would know some key things I'm aiming to learn about.

Of course or at least not surprisingly, there 'are' other rust diseases of fir trees. One, I read, has the Latin name Uredinopsis pteridis, and between its producing spores that can be cream colored (or white_) AND that the needles affected may naturally tend to turn brownish as they wither or die, I imagine the overall effect on the appearance of the affected firs, could be "yellowing" in this second disease, too.

With the witches broom disease, the spores themselves on the fir cohost, seem to be reported to to be yellow colored.
I'm not too familiar with the actual appearance of the symptoms on the fir tree end, of witches broom, including how (if there is a way_) to clearly spot it on firs. Wish I was, though, (maybe someone here knows or has tips?), because I'm thinking right now that I may be ready to try to in fact get started with conclusive testing of my candidate blueberry immunity (to the disease_) specimens!

Home testing for now, right in a spare room I have which has a big sunlit window.

Online pictures seem to tend to show mostly just little growths (spore cases and such, I think_) as what shows in general on infected spruce needles (except maybe, I think, at actual times of big release of the spores, when the spores themselves as they're being released, possibly add some color and noticeability). Here in wintertime, of course it's probably unlikely to be spore-release time, so, so far at least I'm thinking I'm going to sort of be having to , first, search for some somewhat damaged-looking needles or branchlets (a little yellowed or browned_) and then look very closely at the needles themselves and see if there are any of the little dot-like or nib-like growths growths on them. And if some little balsams do seem to have those growths, take them home and study some more to see if any of the balsams do in truth appear to have the disease. If so, then as soon as the blueberries have enough chill hours to bring inside (chill time needed or else they might not be able to sprout into growth once brought inside_)then--I think I've decided--time to begin the "final" testing! And of course continued study of the overall matter.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 9:36PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Found the name I was after.

Dr. Dennis Fulbright- Plant Pathology, MSU.


    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 5:33PM
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mephisto(z5b MA)

For the followup from you, "Thanks" tsugajunkie a second time here, ; and I know and am sorry that it took me quite a while to reply here.

Maybe I can gear up and try to write to him, maybe once I've decided whether I should , in advance, offer him "a little something" for an answer. It "is" in my situation, seemingly a fairly critical matter, that of whether or not the big balsam tree on my site--long long exposed to this fir-blueberry rust (Pucciniastrum goeppertianum)could have escaped contracting the disease from all the infected blueberry plants present. The more I think about it, the more I think it may be VERY likley that the balsam did get infected, probably decades ago. If so, AND if trees infected with the disease stay infected (seems quite likley) AND if it's highly likely that the sending out of disease spores by the balsam, would stand to have continued pretty steadily in at least somewhat substantial amounts of spores ever since (over what would probably be several decades or more) post-infection: THEN I think i'd be ready to conclude very or even maybe "very very" likely there's full immunity to this disease among my several blueberry specimens there showing no infection.

So, again, therein lies the reason that some expert opinion about this, could be important to how I proceed...even though meanwhile I guess I'm pretty much looking to start testing at least a couple of the blueberry bushes "myself", if I can get hold of a couple infected young fir trees, to provide the spores for the test.

I might even try to create my own infected fir seedlings, if I can get hold of some (try to create infected fir by growing some young firs and infected blueberry bushes indoors next to each other (in , I guess, a poly "tent" to concentrate disease spores).

I've written to a couple state Christmas tree growers associations, hoping to find a christmas tree grower happening to have some blueberry bushes, wild ones maybe, next to firs he 's growing, especially young ones, in his plantation. Which I think might well mean infection of this disease happening with some of the blueberries and firs.
So far, no reply though, from the Christmas Tree Grower Associations.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 5:52AM
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