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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

The potential of biological control against Heterobasidion root rot is not realized in practical forestry

Blomquist, Mimmi; Cleary, Michelle; Sherwood, Patrick; Pinto, Wiebke; Herrera, Sebastian Larsson; Marciulyniene, Diana; Elsafy, Mohammed; Bakal, Itzhak; Nilsson, Anna; Ronnberg, Jonas


For about 25 years, forest managers in Sweden have been treating stumps following harvesting with Phlebiopsis gigantea, retailed as Rotstop (R) S gel, against spore infections of Heterobasidion, which cause root rot in order to minimize losses in timber production. However, not all forest managers trust the efficacy of stump treatment and this fact has hindered widespread adoption of stump treatment using P. gigantea. In this study, we evaluated stump treatment in the field during commercial thinning operations across 15 sites, by assessing the degree of stump coverage and subsequent infection levels in stump discs. In total, 45 % of all stumps were infected with Heterobasidion spp.. Nineteen percent of all stumps were considered to have full (100 %) coverage by Rotstop (R) S but contractors failed to achieve the manufacturers stipulated minimum coverage (85 %) in approximately 1/3 of all stumps. Using PCR, we could only detect the presence of P. gigantea in 73 % of the tested stumps. Large variation occurred between stump coverage and the recovery of P. gigantea in wood chip samples collected from stump discs across sites. In the worst case, we detected P. gigantea in only three out of ten treated stumps at one site. Despite this discrepancy we saw a clear reduction of the size of Heterobasidion infections on stumps where stump treatment coverage was more than 85 % of the stump surface.Our results suggest that forest operators in Sweden repeatedly fail to either apply a spore solution of P. gigantea or cover enough of the stumps to provide the desired protection. The outcome of such sub-standard application, could further undermine the usage of biological control agents in forestry and limit any potential control against Heterobasidion spp..


Phlebiopsis gigantea; Stump treatment; Rotstop; Forest management; Norway spruce; Picea abies

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2023, Volume: 531, article number: 120778
Publisher: ELSEVIER