Laurel wilt disease not spread by fruit, seeds from infected avocado trees, UF researchers say

 

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Though laurel wilt remains a top concern for Florida avocado growers, a new University of Florida study is cause for some relief – the disease is unlikely to be spread via fruit or seeds from infected trees.

 Researchers found that the pathogen, a fungus with the scientific name Raffaelea lauricola, does not colonize avocado fruit, said Randy Ploetz, a plant pathology professor at UF’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

 Furthermore, the insect responsible for transmitting the pathogen doesn’t infest avocado fruit, either. Known as the redbay ambrosia beetle, the pest dwells only in the xylem of the avocado tree trunk, he said.

 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.

 “Without the beetle, the chances of transmission are extremely remote,” Ploetz said.

 The study appears in the September issue of Journal of Phytopathology. Funding for the research was provided by the UF/IFAS dean for research.

 The U.S. is the eighth largest avocado producing nation worldwide; Florida is the second-largest avocado producing state, after California.

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Contacts

 Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

 Source: Randy Ploetz, 305-246-7001, ext. 321, kelly12@ufl.edu

 Photo cutline: The disease laurel wilt threatens Florida’s avocado industry, second-largest in the nation. But a new University of Florida study provides some good news: the pathogen responsible for laurel wilt is unlikely to be transmitted via fruit or seeds from infected avocado trees. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones