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Feeling the heat: Towards predicting pitch canker outbreaks in the context of climate change
Tania Quesada: University of Florida; Jennifer Hughes: University of Florida; Katherine Smith: USDA Forest Service; Patrick James: University of Florida; Keumchul Shin: University of Florida; Caroline Staub: University of Florida; Matthew Marsik: University of Florida; Jason Smith: University of Florida
<div>The pitch canker pathogen, <i>Fusarium circinatum, </i>thrives under high temperatures and humidity. It affects most pine species and may cause episodic outbreaks that result in high economic losses to the timber industry. As climate conditions shift towards warmer temperatures, pitch canker disease may become an important problem in the future. Selection of resistant pine genotypes would help overcome potential outbreaks, but requires many years to achieve. To anticipate which strains may be more likely to cause future outbreaks, <i>F. circinatum </i>isolates were obtained from 15 samples from Florida and Georgia, and growth, sporulation, and spore germination was recorded at 25, 28, and 31 °C. In addition, pathogenicity tests were conducted in which significant variation was observed. The four most pathogenic isolates were donated to the USDA Resistance Screening Center in Asheville, to be used in their screening tests, as the strains routinely used in their tests are less virulent than these new strains. A survey of spore production throughout the growing season was also conducted at three Florida locations, where spore traps were placed and weather data were recorded. Spore production was determined by quantitative PCR using <i>F. circinatum-</i>specific primers, averaging between 18 and 114 pg among locations. The integration of weather data with <i>F. circinatum</i> will allow development of epidemiological models to predict pitch canker outbreaks under future conditions.</div>

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