Study finds laurel wilt not spread through fruit

09/18/2012 03:12:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Florida avocado growers may sleep a little better after hearing some good news about a disease that’s threatening their crop.

avocado  redbay ambrosia beetleThe laurel wilt fungus, spread by the avocado redbay ambrosia beetle, is unlikely to be spread via fruit or seeds from infected trees.The laurel wilt fungus, which has destroyed avocado trees throughout the Southeast, is unlikely to be spread via fruit or seeds from infected trees.

It’s also unlikely to harm other commercial production areas, according to research findings from the Gainesville-based University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Researchers at the university’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Fla., discovered the pathogen does not colonize avocado fruit.

Spread by the exotic redbay ambrosia beetle, the laurel wilt fungus has killed red bay and swamp bay trees, which are closely related to avocado trees.

Additionally, the beetle doesn’t infest avocado fruit and dwells only in the tree trunk’s xylem or compound tissue, Randy Ploetz, a university plant pathologist, said in a news release.

“The findings mean avocado fruit and seeds produced in Florida are unlikely to pose a threat of laurel wilt transmission when shipped to other U.S. states or foreign countries,” Ploetz said in the release. “Without the beetle, the chances of transmission are extremely remote.”

In early May, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspectors confirmed finding the fungus inside south Florida’s production region just south of Miami.

Discovered in the northern tier of the production region, inspectors only found a lone infected tree, not the redbay ambrosia beetle.

Earlier discoveries showed the presence of the disease less than 10 miles north of the commercial groves.

The study appears in the September issue of Journal of Phytopathology.



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