Oct. 1, 2016: When people think of the Swiss and Switzerland, it's generally in good terms. The Swiss have their clocks, their cheese, their pocket knives and their chard and they haven't had a major war since 1515. They must be a pretty mellow and trustworthy people. . . or so you would be led to believe. I am here to tell you though about a darker side to the Swiss, a side of deception and decline and Douglas fir.

Dying inner needlesDying inner needlesSwiss needle cast (Phaeocryptopus gaeumannii) is a foliar disease affecting Douglas fir. In recent years it's become somewhat of an epidemic in the Oregon Coast Range. SNC (Swiss needle cast ) causes the inner needles, which are also the older needles (2-4 years old) , to turn yellow and drop. Infected trees have thin canopies. This may not kill the tree but it noticeably lowers it growth rate and stresses the tree. Coupled with other environmental stresses, such as drought , SNC can kill.

SNC affects mainly planted Douglas fir, such as in Christmas tree farms or planted Doug fir timber plantations in the Coast Range. It's estimated to have infected 590,000 acres to the tune of $128 million dollars in economic losses. SNC has grown exponentially and is 4 times what it was 20 years ago. It's postulated that some of this increase is due to wetter springs brought on by climate change.

There is not much that can be done treatment wise for SNC. It's a fungus. When its spores land on the Thinning crownThinning crownneedles it grows and plugs up the stomata, the openings that exchange air and water vapor. No air =- no photosynthesis = yellow and dead needles. Fungicide treatments are impractical and forest management practices don't seem to affect the spread of the pathogen. Planting seed and seedling stock that originate within the Coast Range seem to be the best long term strategy.

So what's the Swiss connection? SNC was first discovered in Swiss forest plantations in the early 20th century. Pathologists claim that SNC is native to the Pacific Northwest and not Switzerland, but I find that to be a very convenient argument. The Swiss are known for keeping their bank accounts secret. Why wouldn't they keep their involvement in needle cast secret also?

Swiss MissSwiss MissSince the disease is called SWISS needle cast, could the Swiss be actually spreading it? I did a little investigative research and found that in the Portland metro area alone there are 4102 Swiss. That's more than the combined Portland populations of Lithuanians, Slovaks and Greeks, none of whom have tree diseases named after them!! Coincidence or conspiracy? In the Coast Range, we have the hamlets of Helvetia and Swiss Home. Coincidence or conspiracy? In 2014, the Swiss pulled out of the Miss Universe contest, the very same Miss Universe that is co-owned by Donald Trump. Could this have been advanced attempt to influence our current presidential elections? Coincidence or conspiracy?

I'm not saying that the Swiss are a danger to our country but I'm not saying that they're not. They just seem too nice to be true. If you're like me, you'll be keeping a lookout for strangers with alpenhorns or yodels from the woods.

F & P