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Spruce needle rust causing brown trees

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Spruce trees throughout the region are turning pinkish or brown as spruce needle rust takes hold here.

“Everyone is running around trying to do something about the problem, but the problem occurred last spring,” said Art Hammond of Hammond Landscaping Ltd., who has received an endless number of calls about the rust over the last few weeks.

Spruce needle rust has been seen in the Rainy River District and northern Minnesota over the past few weeks.

The rust is caused by fungus, which attacks needles on white, black and blue spruce trees. The fungus, which infects each individual needle, spreads in spring and early summer but the rust doesn’t appear until August.

“Everyone thinks that the trees are dying and they are watering them with a hose. That is absolutely the worst thing they can do,” Hammond explained, adding that the water could help fungus take hold again for next year.

Since the fungus has already taken hold, Hammond said there isn’t anything to do this year.

He suggests concerned residents carefully rake up the dead needles carefully and put them in the compost or landfill to help prevent spread for next year.

Often a tree which is severely infected one year will be unaffected the next.

“If it gets worse and worse, and it takes all the needles, the tree can’t photosynthesize food so it starves to death,” Hammond said.

In severe cases, Hammond said that fungicides can be applied to a tree, but warns that spraying shouldn’t be done until spring and early summer when the fungus spreads.

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