Investigations into resistance to white pine blister rust

White pine blister rust (WPBR) caused by the fungus Cronartium ribicola is a devastating introduced disease of five-needled pines (Section Strobus) and Ribes species in North America.

The impact of WPBR in Minnesota has hampered attempts to replant P. strobus in many high-hazard sites in the northeastern and north-central portions of the state. The development of resistant P. strobus seedlings will make planting P. strobus in Minnesota (and other areas of the Lake States, Northeastern US and Canada) more successful and will significantly improve current efforts to re-establish white pine throughout its original native range.

Our lab is focused on two main areas of white pine blister rust research:

  1. Screening Pinus strobus seed sources for resistance to WPBR
  2. Identifying resistance mechanisms/traits in resistant phenotypes

In conjunction with the Minnesota Tree Improvement Cooperative we are screening Eastern white pine seed sources (primarily from Minnesota) for resistance to WPBR. Several seed sources have been consistently resistant after artificial inoculations. One of these seed sources has recently been released for planting and is called Patton's Silver Splendor. This cultivar was named in recognition of Professor Robert Patton who carried out a great deal of early work on selecting white pines for resistance.

The seed sources identified as resistant by screening are also being used to identify resistance mechanisms/traits in needles and stems that may be used for future selection or breeding strategies. Using histology, scanning electron microscopy and biochemical analyses we are investigating potential mechanisms/traits that may contribute to resistance to white pine blister rust. Research findings indicate that multiple mechanisms may be present in resistant phenotypes.


Jacobs, J.J., T. A. Burnes, A. J. David and R., A., Blanchette. 2009. Histopathology of primary needles and mortality associated with white pine blister rust in resistant and susceptible Pinus strobus. Forest Pathology 39:361-376. 

Burnes, T. A., R. A. Blanchette, J. A. Smith and J. J. Luby. 2008. Black currant clonal identity and white pine blister rust resistance. HortScience 43:200-202.

Smith, J.A., Blanchette, R.A., Jacobs, J.J., Higgins, L., Witthun, B. A., Gillman, J. H. and A. J. David. 2006. Proteomic comparison of needles from blister rust-resistant and susceptible Pinus strobus seedlings reveals up-regulation of putative disease resistance proteins. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 19: 150-160.

Smith, J.A., Blanchette, R.A., Burnes, T.A., Gillman, J.H. and A. J. David. 2006. Epicuticular wax and white pine blister rust resistance in selections of Pinus strobus L. Phytopathology 96: 171-177.

Jurgens, J.A., R.A. Blanchette, P.J. Zambino, and A. David. 2003. Histology of white pine blister rust in needles of resistant and susceptible eastern white pine. Plant Disease 87(9): 1026-1030. link is broken

Smith, J. A. T. A. Burnes, J. A. Jurgens, A. J. David and R. A. Blanchette. 2003. Potential resistance mechanisms in Pinus strobus to Cronartium ribicola. In: Proceedings of the Second IUFRO Rusts of Forest Trees Working Party Conference, 19- 23 Aug., 2002, Xu, M.-Q., Walla, J.A., and Zhao, W.-X. (eds.) Yangling, China Forest Research 16 (Suppl).