Laurel wilt (LW) is caused by the fungus Raffaelea lauricola and is transmitted to host trees by the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyloborus glabratus) (RAB). During 2002 this exotic beetle was introduced into Port Wentworth, GA, via infested solid wood packing material. Since then, LW has spread by the natural dissemination of the vector and anthropogenic movement of infested wood throughout the southeastern U.S. (GA, SC, NC, FL, and MS), eliminating redbay (P. borbonia), swampbay (P. palustris) and other native members of this family. This pest has spread to 29 counties in Florida.
Trees in the Lauracae, including the commercially important avocado (Persea americana Mill.) are threatened by laurel wilt (LW). Research has shown that avocado trees are susceptible to attack by the RAB and susceptible to LW. In Jan., 2010, the RAB was detected approximately 16 km from the edge of Florida’s primary commercial avocado production area in southeastern Miami-Dade County, and in Feb., 2011 LW was confirmed in dying swampbay trees in the same area. Swampbay trees continue to die in the area, recently within 7 km of the closest commercial avocado orchard. As of April 2012, LW was confirmed in several commercial avocado groves in the northeastern section of the industry. Despite intensive research since 2006, no economically viable chemical control measures have been found to combat LW. However, on-going research is promising and has provided the researcher and extension scientists the basis for suppression of RAB and the spread of LW. Thus, detection and immediate suppression of outbreaks of LW within the avocado production area is viewed as the most appropriate LW management strategy.
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Tropical Research & Education Center
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