As farmers abandon crops amid dust bowl conditions, scientists find ways to fighting contagious spores of 'sudden oak death'
California's drought is worsening and turning farms to dust, but it is also helping to save oak trees from a deadly fungus and keep beaches clean from bacteria-saturated water.
The lack of rain has impeded a disease which kills the state's signature tree and reduced the amount of bacteria-laden water which contaminates the coast, according to reports this week.
Preliminary results of surveys taken in 17 western counties between April and June showed an infection rate of between two and 10% of California bay laurel trees – a big fall from the 20 to 80% during a year of normal rainfall, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Identifying infected bay laurels is used to fight the tree-strangling pathogen because microbes live in bays before moving on to oaks. Sudden oak death, discovered here in 1995, was expected to kill 90% of California's oaks within 20 years.
Scientists said the drop in the infection rate gave them a chance to regain the initiative and target the host bay trees.