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Impact of armillaria root disease and the effect of thinning in a late-rotation Pinus radiata plantation

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In a search for alternative methods for managing armillaria root disease in Pinus radiata plantations in New Zealand, a thinning trial was established in a 1985 planted stand infested by Armillaria novae-zelandiae. The incidence of chronic (non-lethal) infection rose significantly following a first thinning at age 7 years that provided additional inoculum in the form of colonized stumps. However, this effect diminished before age 19 years when the small stumps had decomposed and, contrary to expectations, a further increase in infection did not follow a second thinning at age 13.5 years, despite a high incidence of larger colonized second thinning stumps. Apparently the increased vigour and associated resistance in the released older trees was sufficient to counter any increase in inoculum potential following treatment. It therefore now appears that thinning may not be detrimental to the final crop volume in contemporary diseased second-rotation plantations. However, this treatment furnishes no disease control benefit, and should still be deployed judiciously in heavily infested stands. There was a small, but significant reduction in volume growth on the more severely infected trees during the first 13 years in this trial, but on the larger trees later in the rotation at age 19 years there was no difference in stem volume between infection severity categories. A previous assessment based only on the earlier data therefore overestimates the impact of Armillaria in present and future pine plantations in New Zealand. Nevertheless, its widespread distribution and its demonstrated pathogenicity indicate that forest owners should be conscious of the presence of Armillaria during plantation management.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: (for correspondence), Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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