The Sudden Oak Death Blitz, an annual survey of the spread of sudden oak death (SOD) throughout the state, has been redesigned this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and shelter-at-home order.
Typically, volunteers go out into the oak forests and test bay laurel trees, which carry the disease and can infect oak trees growing nearby. Leaf samples from the bay laurel trees are then sent to a forest pathology lab for testing. The SOD Blitz in Woodside and Portola Valley was conducted on April 17 last year, and results reported in November indicated that oak trees surveyed in towns between Redwood City and Los Altos Hills had a 21.6% infection rate.
Forest managers can use sanitation, chemical treatments, and the targeted removal of bay trees, but these tools are only useful before oaks and tan oaks are infected, so early detection is critical to slowing the epidemic, according to the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
"The presence of new SOD strains is alarming and the SOD blitzes are the best, if not the only, program to intercept them before they spread," organizers said in a May 11 email. "The SOD Blitz organizers feel that it is important to provide a sense of continuity in our daily lives amidst this crisis, by providing you with the option to participate in a safe, healthy and tremendously useful activity."
To participate, residents can visit portolavalley.net/sodblitz2020 to complete online training and registration before collecting sampling materials at stations May 30 through June 2.
Materials can be picked up from the Portola Valley Historic Schoolhouse porch (765 Portola Road) or between Independence Hall and Town Hall in Woodside beginning Saturday, May 30, at 10 a.m. Packets must be returned by 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 2.
For more information on the SOD Blitz program, click here.