Beech bark disease disease is caused by a pathogen that does not attack trees until they have been extensively infested with a non-native scale insect. The scale has mouthparts that pierce and suck, causing wounds through which the fungus can enter the tree.
Even in heavily infested areas, trees that remain free of scale may not be truly resistant. In the initial stages of infestation, larger, more mature trees are attacked first while smaller, more juvenile trees do not show scale build-up until later phases.
However, some American beech trees remain disease-free in forests long affected by beech bark disease. Insect challenge experiments have demonstrated that such trees are resistant to the scale insects.
The Northern Research Station has developed methods to identify, breed, and propagate these resistant beech trees. Techniques developed by NRS researchers are being used to identify disease resistant American beech trees and to use them to establish seed orchards as part of a multi-agency collaborative effort. Genetic research has shown that about 50% of the seedlings produced from such a seed orchard will inherit resistance to the disease. Seeds produced in these seed orchards will be available to state and national forest managers for restoration of healthy American beech in areas decimated by beech bark disease.
To learn more about beech bark disease, contact Jennifer Koch, Research Biologist with the Northern Research Station.
Find research publications about beech bark disease on Treesearch.