Year In Review

October 19, 2012

One year ago this month Boxwood Blight was officially found in the United States.  There was some legitimate panic in the nursery industry.  Today, one year later, we are still learning about Boxwood Blight.  The disease is still out there.  This fall as temperatures fell and moisture became more abundant some people were predicting that we would see another spike of new reports.  Knock on wood, it has not happened yet.  We do hear of occasional new hot spots popping up but not nearly to the extent once feared.  We continue to be fortunate that the disease has not become extensive in our geographical sales area.  At Saunders Brothers we continue to take all strides to keep Boxwood Blight out but at the same time prepare for what the Europeans tell us is the inevitable; how to deal with it when it does appear.  Daily we hear of people who are misdiagnosing Boxwood Blight.  PLEASE use professional labs to properly diagnose problems.  Unfortunately, nearly every dead boxwood is being linked to Boxwood Blight and I am not aware of a single case that I have been involved with where Boxwood Blight was the culprit.

Researchers continue to work tirelessly to understand more about Boxwood Blight.  Studies are happening on many fronts.  Work is underway to develop tests to allow growers and landscapers to have a quick ‘litmus’ test to identify the disease.  Chemical tests are happening to find what will stop the disease and what will prevent the disease.  DNA testing is happening to better identify different strains of the disease (currently 2 different strains have been found, but only one is in the United States.)  Saunders Brothers is extremely excited and heavily involved in varietal tolerance testing underway at NC State.  A group of researchers from NC State, headed by Miranda Ganci, D. M. Benson, and Kelly Ivors, have just published the first results from a trial this summer on susceptibility of various varieties of boxwood to Boxwood Blight.  Saunders Brothers donated over 1,600 plants to the testing and is very excited to see the first round of results. 

Results of the study were very interesting and revealing.  Most exciting was the fact that some varieties showed a great deal of tolerance to Boxwood Blight.  As expected the tighter, lower growing varieties were more susceptible.  More open growing or taller plants showed more tolerance.    Some varieties even showed ‘scars’ from the spore trying to penetrate the leaves but the plant seems to have fought it off and not allowed the disease to proliferate.   Currently, additional varieties are being evaluated in a second trial and we hope to see results late this fall.  Keep in mind the testing exposed the boxwood to an extremely conducive boxwood blight environment.  Plants that were heavily infected with Boxwood Blight were grouped, sometimes touching, with ‘clean’ plants under heavy shade with multiple overhead daily irrigations.  Unfortunately some of our favorites were more susceptible than we would have like to have seen.  However, we are not ready to throw in the towel on them.  Boxwood Blight susceptibility cannot, in itself, eliminate a boxwood, many factors must be considered. Saunders Brothers intends to address Boxwood Blight as a manageable disease.  We believe Boxwood Blight tolerance along with many other factors including exposure, height, width, mode of irrigation, leaf miner control, pruning habits, and existence of Boxwood Blight in the local landscape will all have to be considered before a plant is chosen.

Here is a link to the report from the NC State Cooperative Extension Service.  Report

Again, if you ever have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Robert Saunders

Sales Manager

Saunders Brothers, Inc.

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