Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Now that the North Coast is finally drying out from an unusually wet winter, concern is growing over the potential rapid spread of sudden oak disease, renewing calls for the public’s help tracking the deadly forest pathogen.
“Now is when we might expect the pathogen to take off a bit,” said Kerry Wininger, a UC Cooperative Extension staffer in Santa Rosa.
Wininger is a local organizer of annual sudden oak death surveys known as the SOD Blitz. This year’s survey occurs from April 25 to 28 across Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Organizers are hoping for a good turnout of volunteers, who will become educated spotters and collectors to help scientists slow the disease’s spread.
A relatively dry winter in 2017-18, coupled with the attention paid to devastating wildfires, appear to have dampened public concern over sudden oak death. But experts say conditions are ripe now for a resurgence of the disease. In addition, there’s heightened worry about a new, more virulent strain of the pathogen gaining a hold on the North Coast and causing more devastation.
Wininger said one of the highlights of this year’s surveys is the unveiling of a new test for the European strain in time to possibly thwart its spread. The new strain has been detected in Oregon.
“We want to nip it in the bud, if it’s here,” Wininger said.
Phytophtora ramorum, the pathogen that causes SOD, most often is spread by water droplets blowing from the leaves of infected bay laurel trees. There is no cure, only preventative measures or destroying oak and tanoak trees that succumb to the pathogen.