Disease Of Pine Tree: Pine Root Nematodes

Pine tree growth poor? Yellowing needles? Branches dying off? Could be pine root nematodes. Find out more about this pine tree disease.

What is it?

Nematodes of many different species infect pine trees. Root nematodes are a microscopic worm which lives in soil, however, they are not in any way related to the well-known earthworm.

What does it look like?

Pine tree root nematodes may have infested your tree if you note that the tree is growing poorly and yellowing on the needles. Branches of the tree may also die, or in cases of extreme root nematode infestation the entire tree turns brown and dies off. These evidences of root nematodes may be the only indication that they are present as even on close examination you are unlikely to view these microscopic worms.

How does it manifest?

Root nematodes prefer sandy loam soils that have lots of moisture. The good news is that on thier own, these pests can only move a few inches each year. The bad news is that due to their size, they are easily carried from their original infestation through rain, wind, soil, water or infested tools. Pine tree root nematodes feed on the plant roots which stunt growth and damage roots. When the roots become damaged so that they can no longer provide sufficient nutrients for the growth of the tree you will begin to see the yellowing and browning of the tree,, along with eventual die off of branches or the entire tree if left untreated. However, many problems of both soil and the root system can cause similar problems, so don't just assume that you have root nematode infestation.

What can you do about it?

The only method to absolutely confirm the presence of root nematodes is soil and root testing which can be done through your local cooperative extension office. The office should be able to provide you with information on how to take samples, and other necessary instruction such as the testing laboratories in your area to send them to. Unfortunately, even if root nematodes are the problem there are currently no chemical preparations available to the homeowner to kill them off in planted soil. However, even if you lose a tree or two, it's good to be aware that you can prevent or at least control, root nematode infestation prior to planting by soil fumigation.

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