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Some Counties Not Reporting Deadly Disease To Avocado Trees, But Could Be Matter Of Time

Tyler Jones
UF/IFAS photography
Jonathan Crane, professor of horticultural sciences, inspecting an avocado tree at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

Laurel wilt has destroyed thousands of avocado trees in most counties across the state. While the deadly disease has not yet made it to several Panhandle counties, experts say it’s only a matter of time.

Laurel wilt is caused by a fungus carried by ambrosia beetles, a nonnative insect to Florida. So far, six counties have not yet reported the deadly disease: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa as well as Gulf, Franklin, and Wakulla.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when they’ll report that they have laurel wilt, and that’s because these native trees throughout the state different species in the laurel family and are susceptible to the pathogen these beetles are carrying,” said Jonathan Crane, a tropical food crop specialist with the University of Florida.

While he says there’s not much that can be done to prevent further spread of laurel wilt, Crane says if you suspect the disease, contact the state Agriculture department’s Division of Plant Industry.

“And, they may come out and take a sample,” he added. “But, the main thing is you don’t want to remove the affected tree from the property because if you move it, then you’re just spreading the beetles and the disease to a new area.”

For proper tree removal, Crane says avocado tree owners should use local disposal teams or contract a licensed company. Rapid wilting and insect boring are signs of laurel wilt.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.