Fighting red needlecast


  • Red needlecast (RNC) was identified in 2008 as having significant impact on radiata pine health throughout the North Island and north of the South Island. A foliar phytophthora was hypothesised as the cause.
  • In 2006 Chile identified a new foliar phytophthora (P. pinifolia) as the causal agent of a new disease that killed 60,000 ha of radiata pine. When the causal agent was officially identified, research results on the potential biosecurity threat of the pathogen to trading partners was not available. Consequently, Korea took a conservative position and banned green lumber and logs. China has placed similar restrictions on logs potentially carrying P. ramorum from the United States.

Potential cost

Assuming the cost of debarking at $10/m3, and that debarking would be accepted as a suitable log treatment , the potential cost to NZ industry of identifying a causal agent, unwanted by trading partners, without additional supporting research would be in the order of $130m/year.


Parallel research projects were initiated in July 2011 to (a) determine the causal agent responsible for RNC and (b) determine the potential for biosecurity risk to trading partners.

The total cost of the research was in the order of $700k over two years, with approximately $400k from FOA.



The parallel research projects are nearing completion and preliminary, but still unofficial results are that:

  • The causal agent is a new foliar phytophthora – but not the one found in Chile,
  • The log trade does not pose any biosecurity risk to trading partners.


Careful research planning and execution potentially saved the industry $130m/year at a cost of $400K.

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