Newswise — GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- With the laurel wilt pathogen threatening the Florida avocado industry, a UF/IFAS tropical fruit scientist will lend his expertise at the World Avocado Congress in September in Lima, Peru.
Jonathan Crane, professor in horticultural sciences, will give an opening presentation titled: “The Potential for Laurel Wilt to Threaten Avocado Production is Real” at the meeting, Sept. 13-18. With this talk, Crane will provide evidence that laurel wilt will spread throughout North America and will pose a threat to native trees and to commercial avocado production.
Later, Crane will present a paper titled: “Current status and control recommendations for laurel wilt and the ambrosia beetle vectors in commercial avocado orchards in South Florida.” Crane co-authored the paper with Daniel Carrillo, assistant professor in entomology; Randy Ploetz, professor in plant pathology; Edward Evans, associate professor in food and resource economics and Aaron Palmateer, associate professor in plant pathology – all of whom work at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead. The final co-author is Don Pybas, director of the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension office.
The redbay ambrosia beetle transmits laurel wilt to avocado trees, killing many of them, threatening an industry with a $100 million-a-year economic impact on Florida. It was discovered in the U.S. in Georgia in 2002. Laurel Wilt was first discovered in the U.S. in 2003, also in Georgia. The devastating disease has spread rapidly along the southeastern seaboard of the U.S. and has begun to slightly affect commercial avocado production in Florida.
While at the conference, Crane said he hopes to learn about new aspects of avocado production, physiology and pest control that may help the industry combat laurel wilt and ambrosia beetles.
“I also hope to alert the avocado industries of North, Central and South America of the threat of laurel wilt to their industries – and to prepare now,” he said.
Recently, UF/IFAS scientists published a study that showed low-altitude aerial images can detect laurel wilt, giving growers an early way to identify diseased trees and perhaps help reduce losses to the avocado industry. The multi-spectral camera distinguishes between laurel wilt-affected trees and healthy ones. Until now, aerial detection of laurel wilt was by visual inspection only, which is time-consuming and not always accurate. Follow-up of trees suspect for laurel involved locating the tree in the grove and collecting wood samples for lab analysis.
About 4.4 million tons of avocados were harvested worldwide in 2012, according to a 2011 UF/IFAS-led study. The projected harvest for 2014 was 3.9 million tons, although specific figures are not known yet. California produces the most avocados of any state in the U.S., followed by Florida and Hawaii. Ninety-eight percent of Florida’s commercial avocados are grown in Miami-Dade.
Other diseases can kill avocado trees, but none of them develops as quickly as laurel wilt. Left unchecked laurel wilt could drastically reduce Florida’s avocado production and economic impact, according to a 2010 study by UF/IFAS faculty members.
Also a the avocado congress, scientists from avocado-producing regions around the world are scheduled to share the latest information on genetic resources and nursery management; pest and disease control; orchard management techniques; post-harvest best practices; avocados’ role in health and nutrition; and marketing.