Needle Cast

In 18 years of bonsai I had never came across needle cast on Pines. Am I just lucky? It’s strange how this hobby/art throws up new things every year. Just when you think you know something, you find out you know precious little!

This weekend I spent a good bit of my time researching and asking for advice on Pine needle Cast on Scots Pine. My pines are cast free but my friend Stephen has it on 4 of his. We believe it has spread to his garden on the wind from a large Scottie that was over looking his garden. The council cut it down as it was suffering from something. Now we know what that was!!

Here’s a few photos of one of Stephens infected Pines.

As you can see, the old needles have turned brown and have the banding that indicates Needle Cast. The tree is still strong as can be seen by the new candles emerging.

This was the tree in April, it looks strong and there was no visible sign of Needle Cast.

So what do we do now? I googled it, as one does these days, and read about all these fungicides that work, Zineb being the main one. Then as I look further into it I find that this is no longer available under EU regulations. I then refine my search to needle cast on bonsai. You can bet if anyone knows how to mollycoddle a pine tree its a bonsai enthusiast. This thread on the Internet Bonsai Club Forum was useful. I found more references to Zineb but also mention of regular treatment with Murphys Copper Based Fungicide. This prevents the cast spreading to new needles and with a prolonged period of treatment you can eventually eradicate the cast. This can take years.

I phoned Stephen and told him to hit the Garden Centres to buy this product. Yep you guessed it, nowhere has it!! We are still looking. This product is going to be removed from the market in 2013 and Murphys are no longer making it. Our only hope of finding it is in some back water garden centre that still has old stock. So far, no joy.

During this process I had posted a request for information on the Wee Trees Bonsai Forum, and Molly, Mike, Corin and Paul, 4 of the members, offered advice. The best bit of info came from Molly who asked his bonsai mentor, Rob Atkinson for advice at a weekend workshop. Rob said that copper based fungicide was the best treatment and that if Murphys was unavailable to try Vitax Bordeaux Mixture. Also, remove all infected needles and get rid. Remove all needles from the soil surface and even remove the top layer of soil. Keep the tree on the dry side and only water the soil when watering. After a few seasons, things should start to return to normal.

Well Bordeaux Mixture, containing Tetra Copper was readily available and was swiftly purchased.

So there you have it! The power of the internet and the bonsai community. I think at some point I’ll add this to a page on my blog as opposed to a post. At least it may help others who find themselves in this position. Thanks to all those who offered advice and even a willingness to post over a few packets of Murphy’s!