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September : Responding to Fusarium circinatum in South Africa - Journal of Forest Science

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21 September, 2014

Responding to Fusarium circinatum in South Africa - Journal of Forest Science

This issue of Southern Forests is dedicated to reporting research on Fusarium circinatum. This pathogen is well known for causing pine pitch canker and is associated with economic damage of pines in North and South America, Asia, Europe and Africa. Importantly, in South Africa this pathogen presents a special problem because it causes disease in containerized nurseries and mortality immediately post-planting of the two main pine plantation species, Pinus patula in summer rainfall regions and P. radiata in the western and southern Cape.

Post-planting survival problems with P. patula became progressively worse though the last decade. This prompted an increased focus and effort by the research community in South Africa. Following a workshop in 2010 at Kaapsehoop in Mpumalanga a collaborative programme of research was conceived. Financial support for this was provided by the industry through Forestry South Africa and other institutional and company support also increased. This dedicated issue of Southern Forests presents some of this research. The seven papers cover three areas of focus seeking to improve understanding of how the disease occurs, better control infection in the nursery and breed planting stock that is more tolerant of the pathogen. However, I must emphasise that much other research has either been reported or is still in process and this collection represents only part of the total effort, all be it an important part.

Anecdotal feedback from foresters and nursery managers suggests that post-planting survival of pine has improved since 2010. This improvement is linked to the research effort through reporting progress early and often. Talks at regular field-day events organised by the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research, presentations at the annual Tree Protection Cooperative Programme meeting at the University of Pretoria and the annual meeting of the Seedling Growers Association of South Africa have been important opportunities to report on interim results. Hence, the formal peer-reviewed reporting of research in this issue has already provided guidance to improved management practice.

Having been involved in this effort to develop better management of this serious pathogen I feel there are two important lessons learnt - apart from the science. First, the value of truly collaborative research, which has been both cross-institute and cross-company, in generating new understanding. Several papers in this issue are the product of a combined effort making use of a range of specific skills and expertise. Second, the benefit of early feedback of research results, often qualified and interim in nature, to forestry practitioners hungry to try new things. When faced with a serious problem, such as widespread severe post-planting mortality, foresters and nursery managers can be organised, innovative and proactive users of research findings. I have found this to be a personally very satisfying experience and as a result find myself positively looking forward to the next big threat!

(Andrew R Morris Editor-in-Chief (2014) Responding to Fusarium circinatum in South Africa, Southern Forests: a Journal of Forest Science, 76:3, iii-iii, DOI: 10.2989/20702620.2014.959698)