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Comparative susceptibility of pine, spruce and larch to sapstain

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This study compared the susceptibility of five UK-grown conifer species to colonization by sapstain fungi in two trials carried out in consecutive years. The conifers consisted of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi), Norway spruce (Picea abies), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). Freshly cut 1-m logs were exposed to the available inoculum of sapstain fungi from April to August in a woodland environment in the south east of England. Logs of each species were removed after 1-, 2- and 4-month exposure and sampled destructively to assess the amount of sapstain. In the second trial, per cent moisture content and concentrations of nitrogen, carbohydrate and phenolic compounds in the sapwood were also measured at the start and end of the trial. After 2 months, only the sapwood of both pine species had significant levels of sapstain; mean values of 37% and 19% for lodgepole pine (year 1 and year 2 respectively) and 12% and 1% for Scots pine. After 4 months, the levels of sapstain in both pine species exceeded 60% in both years. By contrast, very little sapstain developed in the other conifer species with maximum mean values of 10% for Norway spruce, 3.5% for larch and less than 1% for Sitka spruce. Overall, the moisture content of the logs decreased progressively in all species over the length of the trial. However, pine logs tended to retain higher levels of moisture throughout the trial compared with spruce or larch. The relatively higher moisture content of pine sapwood may be closer to the optimal moisture content that sapstain fungi require for infection and colonization, thereby contributing to the increased susceptibility of pine compared with the other conifer species. The pine logs also suffered from some colonization by bark beetles (Ips sexdentatus), which increased the inoculum potential and the opportunity for colonization by sapstain fungi. In addition, particular phenolic compounds in conifer sapwood may play a role in determining the resistance of some species to sapstain. Notably the most resistant species, Sitka spruce, was the only softwood that still retained detectable levels of phenolics in the sapwood to the end of the trial.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 4LH, UK 2: School of Biological Sciences, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK

Publication date: 2010-04-01

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