Brown Spot Needle Blight
If you've heard of the HBO hit series "The Last of Us," your ears might perk up when you hear about a spreading fungus. While the Scirrhia acicula fungus causes the Brown Spot Needle Blight, it affects loblolly pines, not humans.
After above-average rainfall in the spring and summertime, the moisture, high humidity, and density of some stands create the perfect environment for the fungus to spread. When conditions are moist, asexual spores are dispersed by rain splash and wind (to a lesser extent). The fruiting bodies form under the epidermis of the needles and burst the surface. The band or spot is visible on the needles. Additionally, some of the dying trees in Arkansas have been diagnosed with Needle Cast, which is caused by several different fungi. The outbreaks can appear dramatic, but the damage may be relatively minor, and treatments are available.
While fungicidal treatments are available, they are often cost-prohibitive and unsuited to forest conditions. There are preventative measures that can be taken to avert the blight. Timber stands need to be thinned before they become overly dense, which increases airflow and promotes foliage drying, thus reducing infections. If some trees become infected, the damaged trees and the most susceptible species can be thinned.
If you're concerned with brown spot needle blight or other threats to your timber stand, contact your local AFM consulting forester.