Sudden oak death, also called Ramorum blight or dieback, has been in the news since its spread to 22 states in 2004. Two good summaries about this disease can be found in Home, Yard, and Garden Pest Newsletter issues no. 1, 16, and 20 of 2004. Another good starting point is the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA APHIS. Their Web site on this disease can be found at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/ispm/pramorum/. The big question is whether the disease has been found in Illinois; and the answer is not yet. Yes, sudden oak death could make its way to Illinois. If it does, trees in the oak family could be infected and killed. Many shrub species could also be affected. In the United States, this disease originated on the West Coast. Quarantines, destruction of infected plant material, and inspections of exported host species are measures currently in place to help prevent further spread of the causal pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum.
In response to the threat of this disease, Illinois Extension specialists formed the Illinois Phytophthora ramorum (SOD) Task Force in July 2004. This group includes representatives from the Illinois green industry, as well as regulatory agencies. Plant pathology and horticulture specialists in the Department of Crop Sciences and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences serve as the Illinois contact with national educational efforts. The task force mission is to organize and inform the primary stakeholders in Illinois and to develop an Illinois detection and response plan. Several meetings were organized in 2004, primarily for internal education. Training for green industry professionals and Master Gardeners was available on March 7, 2005. Information on disease symptoms, hosts, spread, and detection and response protocol for Illinois was presented at that statewide teleconference and training session. That PowerPoint presentation and the Illinois response plan can be downloaded from the Master Gardener Web site at http://www.extension.uiuc.edu/mg/. Watch this newsletter for updates.