August 3, 2009
Tree-killing fungus threatens avocados
A tree-killing fungus near Florida's Everglades National Park could harm the area's $12.7 million avocado industry, agriculture officials said.
"At this point, if your tree becomes infected, it will die,'' state Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman Mark Fagan told The Miami Herald.
Scientists recently discovered a case of laurel wilt disease, carried by the invasive redbay ambrosia beetle, in an avocado sample taken from a grove in Homestead, Fla., between Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park.
The fungus kills trees in the laurel family -- with the avocado the most commercially valuable plant -- by infecting the sapwood, which in turn restricts the flow of water and causes leaves to wilt, agriculture officials said. Last week's discovery marks the first laurel wilt case found in Florida's commercial avocado crops, officials said.
The deadly disease threatens South Florida's lucrative avocado industry, which fills an estimated 6,500 Miami-Dade County acres, officials said.
Agency officials say they hope to halt the disease's spread by urging residents not to transport avocado, sassafras, redbay, swamp bay, pondberry or pondspice trees unless they purchase the trees directly from a registered nursery, the Herald said.