How to Get Rid of Cytospora Canker?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Cytospora canker is a fungal disease that affects over 70 tree species, with no known cure.
  • Management practices like maintaining tree health, removing infected limbs, and preventing stress can help mitigate cytospora canker.
  • Choosing resistant tree species and varieties when planting new trees is recommended to avoid this disease.
  • Proper sanitation through wound cleaning and disinfecting tools is crucial to prevent spread.
  • While there is no cure, diligent prevention and control measures can help limit cytospora canker’s impacts.

Cytospora canker is a destructive fungal disease that impacts a wide variety of trees, including stone fruits, conifers, poplars, spruces, and more. This disease can lead to dieback, wilting, canopy thinning, and even tree death in cases of severe infection. With over 70 susceptible tree species and no known cure, cytospora canker poses a significant threat to orchards, landscapes, and forests worldwide. Fortunately, through diligent management practices, the impacts of this disease can be mitigated. This article will comprehensively evaluate multiple strategies for getting rid of cytospora canker, from maintaining tree health to preventive care when planting new trees. Discover practical solutions to protect your trees and limit the spread of this devastating canker disease.

Why Is Cytospora Canker So Difficult to Cure?

Cytospora canker is caused by fungal pathogens in the genus Leucostoma, including Leucostoma cinctum, Leucostoma persoonii, and Leucostoma kunzei. These fungi infect trees through wounds or other openings, colonizing the inner bark and vascular tissues. According to a 10-year study by Colorado State University, the disease is difficult to cure because the pathogens can penetrate deep into woody tissues where chemical treatments cannot reach.

Once infection occurs, the fungi spread within the tree, forming cankers or sunken, dead areas of bark. The pathogens also produce conidia and perithecia fruiting bodies which release spores to further perpetuate infections. These reproductive structures enable the disease to readily disperse and make it incredibly challenging to eliminate.

Researchers have been unable to develop effective chemical controls to cure cytospora canker. Fungicides do not penetrate woody tissues sufficiently to eradicate infections. The disease also cannot be cured through pruning alone, as all infected areas must be removed. For these reasons, management strategies aim to prevent and slow infections rather than cure them.

How to Get Rid of Cytospora Canker?

How Can Cytospora Canker Be Managed and Controlled?

While cytospora canker has no known cure, implementing preventive practices and diligent management can help limit its impacts. Here are some of the most effective ways to combat this disease:

Maintain Optimal Tree Health and Vigor

Healthy, vigorous trees are less susceptible to infections. Proper care through regular watering, fertilization, and pruning helps trees better withstand and compartmentalize diseases. Ensure trees receive adequate water during dry periods and irrigate carefully to avoid root stress.

Fertilize annually with a balanced, slow-release formula to provide necessary nutrients. Organic mulching around trees also contributes nutrients and maintains soil moisture. Prune judiciously to shape trees and remove dead or diseased branches. Following proper horticultural practices tailored to each tree species optimizes health.

Remove and Destroy Infected Plant Material

Once cytospora canker is detected, it is critical to prune out all infected branches, limbs, and cankers. Use proper sanitation methods while pruning to avoid spreading the disease. An Oregon State University guide recommends making cuts at least 4-6 inches below visible infections, into healthy wood. When removing branches, employ the 3-cut method to prevent tearing.

Immediately dispose of all diseased material by burning or deep burial. Do not leave infected debris near trees, as it can harbor inoculum. Thorough removal of affected parts is key to controlling spread. Monitor trees closely for new infections, repeating removal as needed.

How to Get Rid of Cytospora Canker?

Disinfect Tools and Tree Wounds

To prevent introducing or spreading cytospora canker, properly disinfect pruning tools after each cut. Dip tools in 70% isopropyl alcohol or a 10% bleach solution for at least 30 seconds between cuts. Cleaning pruners prevents fungal spores and pathogens from accumulating on tool surfaces.

Additionally, treat all tree wounds and fresh pruning cuts. Use a wound paint or dressing formulated for trees to protect from infection while healing. Keep wounds covered until bark fully seals the area. Maintaining clean tools and treating wounds limits disease entry points.

Avoid Tree Injury and Stress

Since cytospora readily enters through wounds, it is critical to avoid injuring tree bark and wood. Take care when mowing, trimming, or performing construction work around trees. Prevent bark damage from lawnmowers, string trimmers, and other equipment. Rodent chewing also poses a wound risk in winter and should be addressed through baiting or barriers.

Also minimize plant stressors like drought, overwatering, nutrient deficiencies, and pest issues. Stressed trees have lower defenses and become highly vulnerable to infections. Providing optimal care and protections reduces susceptibility.

Choose Resistant Species and Varieties

When establishing new plantings, select tree species and cultivars resistant to cytospora canker. Some proven choices include thornless honeylocust, baldcypress, pines like red pine and Austrian pine, American hornbeam, and Japanese zelkova. Consult diagnostic guides to avoid susceptible genera like stone fruits, spruces, poplars, and cherries in high-risk areas.

Likewise, choose canker-resistant cultivars when available. The Fruit Trees Produced in the Pacific Northwest guide recommends selecting almond, apricot, cherry, peach, and plum varieties grafted on specific rootstocks known to be less vulnerable. Planting resistant trees is a key preventive strategy.

Apply Fungicides Protectively

While fungicides do not cure cytospora canker, well-timed applications help protect trees against initial infections. Apply registered fungicides labeled for Leucostoma or Cytospora diseases when conditions favor spore dispersal. This includes rainy spring weather and periods following pruning wounds.

Multisite fungicides like chlorothalonil, mancozeb, and copper compounds may offer protection when applied before rainfall. However, efficacy is limited once infections occur. Rotate between fungicide classes and integrate with cultural practices. Note that fungicides may only suppress, not eliminate, the disease.

Promote Air Circulation and Sunlight Penetration

Cytospora fungi thrive in dense, moist, shaded conditions. Improving air movement and sunlight penetration through the canopy helps reduce disease conduciveness. For orchards and landscapes, space trees appropriately to allow air flow between crowns. Regular pruning also opens trees to light and circulation.

Proper tree spacing, occasional thinning, and removal of excess branches helps dry leaf surfaces. Avoid overcrowding trees and eliminate encroaching vegetation to create an unfavorable environment for the disease.

Apply Sobering Lessons from the Past

Reflecting on past cytospora canker epidemics provides critical insights for prevention. In the 1970s, elm deaths from Dutch elm disease led to replacement plantings of susceptible Siberian elms. These then faced catastrophic cytospora canker, showing the importance of diversity. Apple growers also faced severe losses before adopting resistant rootstocks and varietal diversification.

Learning from such historical patterns steers us away from monocultures and susceptibility. Promoting biodiversity alongside focused cultural practices is key to sustainable disease management over time.

FAQs About Managing Cytospora Canker

What conditions favor cytospora canker infections?

Cytospora thrives under cool, wet conditions. Spring and fall are peak periods for spore dispersal and new infections. Wounds also provide prime entry points for the pathogen. Treesalready stressed by drought, pests, or poor nutrition are most vulnerable to developing severe infections.

How is cytospora canker identified and diagnosed?

Look for sunken, dead areas of bark that ooze sap. Cankers expand over time, becoming diamond-shaped. Dieback of branches may occur above cankers. The inner bark appears water-soaked with brown discoloration. Distinctive reproductive structures form on the canker surface. Lab analysis can conclusively identify the specific fungal species.

Should infected trees be removed and replaced?

In high-value landscape and orchard trees, attempt to save specimens through vigilant pruning, wound care, and fungicide applications. However, trees suffering extensive infections or multi-season impacts may need removal. Disinfect the site fully before replanting with a resistant species.

Does pruning in winter help control cytospora canker?

Yes, winter pruning allows better visualization of disease symptoms without foliage. It also promotes healing before spring rainfall. However, prune conservatively, as excessive cutting weakens trees. Disinfect tools properly between each cut. Continue monitoring for new infections.

How long do protective fungicide applications last?

Fungicides only prevent initial infections, rather than curing existing disease. Depending on the product, repeat applications every 7-14 days may be needed during wet spring weather. Reapply after rain or new growth. Rotate between chemical classes for resistance management.

Should cultural practices differ between landscape and forest trees?

Prioritize frequent monitoring and early removal of infections in high-value landscape specimens. Space individual trees appropriately. For forests, promote diversity, select resistant species, and thin overcrowded stands to encourage airflow. Fungicides are not feasible for entire woodlands.


In summary, getting rid of cytospora canker requires an integrated approach rather than a singular cure. By implementing preventive care through optimal irrigation, fertilization, pruning, and plant selection, trees build vital defenses against infection. When infections do occur, promptly removing and destroying affected parts limits spread. Sanitizing tools, treating wounds, avoiding stressors, and applying fungicides at key times also helps combat the disease. While cytospora canker is notoriously challenging to eliminate, diligent management enables healthy, productive trees and forests despite this persistent threat. Consistent vigilance and preventive care is ultimately the best strategy against this devastating disease.

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