Needlecast is not a new on-line broadcast of sarcastic comedians……..it is a fungus that might be affecting your evergreen trees. The fungus Rhizosphaera Needlecast causes browning and premature needle drop on Spruce and Pines. Browning of the needles is apparent in early spring. Here is a picture of Needlecast sent to me from my friend Brian McKenzie at Bartlett Tree Experts.
Often diagnosed as “winter damage” the problem tends to appear first on lower branches. I’m convinced this is because the lower branches are the wettest and most shaded part of the evergreen tree. Fruiting spores are spread by spring rain to other needles including those that are newly formed. Stressed trees that are not properly cared for (feeding and water) are most susceptible. Remove infected limbs and fallen needles in early spring. Overstory trees in close proximity to these evergreen trees need to be pruned to improve light and air penetration. Fungicides will reduce infection. Applications should be made in spring when new needles are half expanded and repeated when fully expanded. Stick with a fungicide spray program for two to three years running and focus on improving general tree health to minimize stress.