ALABAMA — An Auburn University research team received a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service to fund an ongoing effort to combat pine blight, a condition that affects pine trees. The team will use the funds to “determine the impacts on productivity and biological causes of needle blight,” said a press release from Auburn, which said that non-native pests and pathogens have caused an estimated $4.2 billion in damages to the forest industry. The disease affects pines of various types and are marked by the discoloration of needles, often looking like they have been burned. It is commonly spread by wind and rain. Pines have been affected by the disease in 36 counties out of the 67 in Alabama. Landowners who believe that their pines are being affected are encouraged to call their local Alabama Forestry Commission office.