Pine Pitch Canker

Fusarium circinatum

Pine Pitch Canker

Pine Pitch Canker

Legal Status: Unwanted Organism - MPI
Status in New Zealand: Not in New Zealand
Organism: Micro-organism

Pine pitch canker - caused by the fungus Fusarium circinatum - is a serious disease of pines and a threat to the forest industry in New Zealand. Fusarium circinatum can infect vegetative and reproductive tissues of susceptible hosts at all ages, from seedlings through to mature trees. Contaminated seed is a likely pathway for introduction of the fungus and nurseries growing pines are therefore the most likely place for an introduction to occur.


Pitch canker is believed to have originated in Mexico and spread north into eastern USA (first report 1946) and then western USA (first report 1986). World-wide the disease has been recorded in Japan (first report 1980s), South Africa (first report 1990), Chile, Spain (both first reported early to mid 1990s) and Italy (first report 2007).

Pitch canker has been recorded on species of pine (Pinus) and on Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). The causal fungus Fusarium circinatum was once considered a subspecies of Fusarium subglutinans and can be difficult to distinguish from this or other closely related species. The fungus requires a moist substrate for infection and can be spread by insects or water splash, and where host trees have been wounded by such things as insect attack, strong winds or pruning, can be spread by the wind. None of the known insect vectors are established in New Zealand.

The fungus can survive in soil for 6 months and in wood pieces for over 12 months. Currently there is no effective treatment for the disease in mature trees. While Douglas fir and many pine species are relatively resistant to the Pitch canker disease, Radiata or Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) is considered highly susceptible to the disease with mortality rates in mature trees reaching 80% in some areas of California.

The impact to New Zealand's commercial forestry industry could be considerable. The predominant plantation species in New Zealand is Radiata or Monterey pine (Pinus radiata). Should the disease become established in New Zealand, aspects of the forestry industry would be significantly impacted resulting in a degradation of the industry as a whole. In 2007 forestry exports were worth $3 billion or approximately 11% of New Zealand’s total merchandise exports. Forestry has the potential to become one of New Zealand's largest export earners but is vulnerable to pests and diseases.

MPI Approved Pest Free Areas For Fusarium circinatum (Pine Pitch Canker)

No other countries/states/provinces are New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry approved pest free areas for Fusarium circinatum.

Import Requirements

Based on the current understanding of the epidemiology of the Pitch Canker disease caused by Fusarium circinatum, New Zealand considers host material to include all species of Pinus, Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and soil or objects contaminated by soil. The following is a summary of New Zealand's current import requirements for the three main classes of Fusarium circinatum host material:

Nursery Stock:

Pinus spp. and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) can not currently be imported into New Zealand, as they are not covered by a valid import health standard.

Seed for Sowing:

Specific Import health standards for seed for sowing of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Pinus species were issued in 2002:

Under these standards, seed may be imported from any country, but requires stringent quarantine measures on arrival in New Zealand unless imported from countries considered by MAF BNZ to be free of Fusarium circinatum or Pitch Canker disease.

See general requirements for importing seed for sowing for additional information.

Non-propagable Wood Products:

Specific requirements for Pinus species are in place for sawn timber (under 300 mm thick) originating from areas considered by the MAF BNZ not to be free of Fusarium circinatum. These requirements are found within section 3.1.4 of the import health standard Sawn Wood from All Countries (offsite link to

Currently there are no restrictions on sawn timber of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).

Pines cones must be heat-treated according to treatment FPT2 in the standard BNZ-STD-ABTRT Approved Biosecurity Treatment for Risk Goods (offsite link to; or contain no seed and have been completely covered in lacquer or a thick paint or varnish layer.

There are currently no other requirements specific to Fusarium circinatum for other types of non-propagable wood products (e.g. wood packaging, woodware etc.).


Imported soil must meet the requirements of the import health standard Soil, rock, gravel, sand, clay, and water from any country (offsite link to


Interception on Scion in Quarantine

During 2003 an interception of Fusarium circinatum was made on 3 imported consignments of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) scion from counties in California (Sierra-Nevada region) and Oregon. MAF BNZ responded at that time by suspending all permits to import Douglas fir cuttings or similar material from the USA, and ordering the destruction of the infested consignment.

For more information on this interception, please refer to the Report on the interception of Fusarium circinatum (Pitch Canker).

Further Information

Page last updated: 31 January 2017