A vascular disease caused by a fungus is posing a serious threat to Florida’s commercial avocado production, which could result in almost $55 million damage to the state economy.
Laurel wilt has been moving rapidly through the state, striking commercial avocado groves in southern Miami-Dade County starting in March 2012. Avacados take up about 7,500 acres of production in Florida.
Currently, most of the trees affected by laurel wilt are on residential property, but more than 3,000 infested commercial trees have also been destroyed, a small part of the state’s 650,000-tree avocado stock.
The Lakeland Ledger reports that after detecting the fungus, the only way to prevent the spread of the disease is by destroying the tree, a process of sampling, testing and disposal that is “extremely costly.” To dispose of an avocado tree costs $200; the total worth of a healthy tree is about $400.
Researchers at the University of Florida at Homestead, as well as at the University of California-Riverside, are looking at a beneficial fungus that can kill the ambrosia beetle, using a foam originally developed for termite extermination.
A federal agricultural research team is working with the California Avocado Commission to assess orchard-scale trials to see if the foam is successful in controlling the bugs. California is the largest producer of avocados in the U.S.