New Study Gives Uplifting Lowdown On Laurel Wilt

Slideshow: Erickson Farm


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.

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.