Posted: April 3, 2024

Leaf disease puts beech trees in jeopardy

Beech Leaf Disease

Beech Leaf Disease

Deadly beech leaf disease currently has no known treatment or cure, putting beech trees in jeopardy. However, researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences are spearheading efforts to learn more about the disease and how to combat it.

A recent project sent a team to Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest, where, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, scientists identified 50 sites that contained beech trees. Using data from more than 200 trees, the team created a severity map to illustrate the spread and intensity of beech leaf disease across the forest. The researchers found that about 90% of the sites contained trees infected with beech leaf disease.

Team members also examined the differences between infected and noninfected leaves on a microbial level, taking tissue from both infected and uninfected leaves gathered from various sites. They then identified specific groups of bacteria and fungi associated with the disease.

The researchers said it is important for the public and the scientific community to continue pushing for more studies and ongoing research.

"This is a big problem for our forests, as well as the trees in our own backyards," said Cristina Rosa, associate professor of plant virology. "Many species of wildlife depend on beech trees for food and shelter, in addition to the Pennsylvania citizens who value the forests for recreation. It's vital that we learn more about this disease and how, eventually, to overcome it."

—Katie Bohn