When trying to determine if an oak may have SOD (caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum), the first step is to determine if the tree lies within 1 km of a known outbreak. This can be done by accessing SODMAP at www.sodmap.org or by uploading the free “SODMAP Mobile” app to your smartphone. Stand next to the tree in question and tap the risk button. A response of moderate or high risk would suggest Phytophthora ramorum may be present. The next step is to confirm it is indeed P. ramorum. Make sure the oozing is not wetwood, or bacterial flux, which typically is associated with much more oozing and often has an unpleasant odor. Bacterial flux usually has a watery secretion running down the trunk that originates from a wound or branch crotch. If all symptoms align with SOD, the next step is to test for P. ramorum. If a symptomatic California bay laurel tree is within 10 m of the oak, collect symptomatic bay leaves for testing. This is not a definite diagnosis for the oak, but it may be an acceptable one that does not involve wounding the oak tree for sampling. Bay-based diagnosis for an oak may be less accurate after multiple years of drought, as bays may actually turn from SOD positive to SOD negative during extended dry conditions. One can get bay leaves tested by participating in one of the annual SOD blitzes (www.sodblitz.org) or by submitting samples to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Testing the oak requires debarking a portion of the tree until the margins of the putative SOD lesion under the bark are visible and then plating the margins of the lesion on Phytophthora-selective medium for laboratory analysis.
SOD Blitzes include a training session for blitz volunteers on SOD and proper sampling, followed by time in the field for collecting and marking sample locations. All necessary collection materials are provided to volunteers during the training session for use either the same day of the training or the day after. All samples are to be dropped off at a designated location (location announced at the training session). There are approximately 20 SOD Blitzes in areas of California that have sudden oak death or at risk of disease establishment. Most of the training sessions are offered on Saturday mornings. SOD Blitz schedules for the coming year are posted annually during the last week of January at www.sodblitz.org.
Yes, you can apply phosphonate to your oak trees to help protect them from sudden oak death. You can find it in many Bay Area garden supply stores.
If you apply it topically to the bark, you will also need the surfactant Pentra-Bark® and you will need a sprayer. If you choose to inject it, you will need enough injectors to treat your largest tree (1 injector every 6 inches around the circumference). Treatments should be applied between November 1st and December 15th for best results.
For details on how to apply phosphonates, go to www.matteolab.org, “Treatment and Diagnosis” (at top of page).
The symptoms on your oak may be caused by a range of issues. If oozing is accompanied by the presence of fine sawdust, then the tree is dying. Even if it is still green you may want to consider removing it if its failure may cause harm to people or property. The fine sawdust is caused by beetles tunneling in the tree. Oaks are only attacked by beetles when dying. If no sawdust is present, then the tree’s condition may be reversible.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine what may be the cause of the symptoms you describe. Sudden Oak Death (SOD) can attack an oak tree if California bay laurel is within 60 feet of the oak. You can use the free SODmap Mobile App to determine if you are in a high or moderate risk zone for SOD. To find out how to do that, go to www.sodmapmobile.org. There is also a YouTube video you can watch at https://youtu.be/zE0_q3EmIfs. If the information you gather suggests that it may be SOD, then repeat the phosphite bark application (such as Agri-Fos® combined with Pentra-Bark®) in the fall between October 30th and December 15th. You may also want to consider removal of bays within 30 feet from the oak. Go to http://nature.berkeley.edu/garbelottowp/?page_id=909 to find out about upcoming treatment training sessions to learn more about treatment options. If there are no bays within 60 feet of your oak and the SODmap mobile risk is low, then it likely isn’t SOD.
If you have watered your oak, it may be a root disease such as the oak root fungus or Phytophthora cinnamomi root disease. Make sure you stop watering and expose the upper root system to the air to slow disease progression. If you have never watered your oak, then it may be a secondary disease brought on by the long drought (ex. oak die-back fungus). These are diseases that are strongly affected by the genetics of the tree and weather conditions. In this case, you may want to try watering the tree now and then once again in 2 weeks. Then water once a month starting October 15th. Do not water between July 10th and October 15th. Watering should be done using a low flow approach to ensure that the soil gets wet up to 1 foot down and that no flooding of the tree ever occurs. Unfortunately, if the secondary disease is too advanced, despite all efforts, the tree may still die.
If a homeowner suspects SOD is affecting their trees, there are a few options to get them tested. SOD kills several oak species and tanoaks, but it is primarily spread via infected California bay laurel leaves. Parties interested in testing for the presence of SOD can contact their local UC Farm Advisor or county Department of Agriculture to find out if they accept symptomatic bay laurel leaves for testing. (Go to Hosts and Symptoms on the California Oak Mortality Task Force [COMTF] website to learn what symptomatic bay leaves look like.)
Another option is to participate in a spring SOD Blitz. These are community-based, volunteer sampling efforts that are organized in cooperation with the Garbelotto lab. Training dates and locations are posted February 1st of each year for the upcoming sampling season at www.sodblitz.org. Training and sampling take just over an hour each and happen on the same scheduled weekend.
For infected oaks, call an arborist. A list of arborists that have attended a SOD training within the last 3 years is available on the Arborists and Applicators page of the COMTF website. NOTE: This list is only intended to be an additional filter for those looking for an arborist. It is not a list of recommended professionals.
Oak testing is routinely done by arborists. It is a rather involved and tedious process that requires a fair amount of finesse and know how as it entails wounding the tree by shaving off the outer layer of bark to collect infected tissue. If you decide to have your oaks tested for SOD, consider going to the Trained Professionals List for arborists that have recently attended an official SOD seminar (Not intended to be a list of recommended professionals, this list does serve as an additional filter when trying to identify arborists that are up-to-date on the latest science-based SOD information.).
Alternatively, a less invasive method of determining the presence or absence of SOD on your property is to sample symptomatic bay leaves (See Hosts and Symptoms for SOD symptoms.). Keep in mind that any infested bay in the general vicinity (typically within 200 ft of an infected oak) may be the inoculum source for infection of your coast live oak. If bay sampling is your preferred method for pathogen detection, you can call your local UC Cooperative Extension office to find out if the California Department of Food and Agriculture is processing leaves from your county and, if so, what the protocol is for sample submissions. In lieu of submitting samples through your county, you can go to www.sodblitz.org to find out when a SOD Blitz will be held in your region (Dates for each year are posted by January 30th. Blitzes typically occur from March to June). Attending a blitz will afford you the opportunity to learn more about SOD, including the latest disease control strategies, during a 1-hour training session. At the end of the session you will be given all sampling materials and instructions for submissions. Blitz participants are free to submit as many leaves as necessary, meaning that you can send in all suspicious leaves from your property as well as from the neighborhood or nearby local parks. All leaves are processed at UC Berkeley and all sampling results are published in a database available at www.sodmap.org or through the free App SODmap mobile.
Yes! There are free meetings and workshops that you can participate in throughout the year:
You may also want to check out the SOD Blitz project webpage for more information.