Phytophthora ramorum can survive introduction into finished compost

Publication Type:

Journal Article


California Agriculture, Volume 69, Issue 4, p.237 - 241 (2015)



Composted municipal green waste is a potential vehicle for the transmission of Phytophtora ramorum, the pathogen responsible for the disease known as sudden oak death. To assess the survival rate of the pathogen in compost, we introduced zoospores — a type of infectious propagule — into six composts of varying provenance and maturity. The compost samples represented three production facilities, two production techniques (turned windrow and forced air static pile) and two levels of maturity (fresh, defined as aged for less than 1 week; and mature, aged for more than 4 weeks). Positive re-isolations — indicating survival of the pathogen — were obtained from all composts. The re-isolation rate from the compost from one of the three production facilities was greater than that obtained from an inert substrate (filter paper) inoculated with the pathogen (P < 0.01), while re-isolation rates from the other two sources were statistically indistinguishable from those obtained from the inert substrate (P < 0.01). There was no significant difference in re-isolation rate between composts produced by the turned windrow method and composts produced by the forced air static pile technique. Re-isolation rates were greater from mature composts than from fresh composts (P < 0.01). The results show that P. ramorum may be present and infectious if introduced into finished compost, and that variations in compost characteristics appear to influence survival rates.