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New Disease Could Affect $84 Million Palm Tree Industry

Scientists at the University of Florida have been studying a new disease that’s destroying certain palm trees that are native to Florida.

(SOURCE: UF/IFAS ) Premature fruit drop is an early symptom of TPPD. Virtually all the fruit drops at one time from the affected tree.

The disease lethal bronzing is a bacterial disease called phytoplasma. The symptoms of this palm tree disease are most or all the fruits drop prematurely, but this happens to mature plants.

The next symptom is the change of color in the foliage starting at the leaf tip. The leafs of the palm tree start to die first and depending on the species and stage of infection these leaves turn reddish-brown, dark-brown or grayish.

(SOURCE: UF/IFAS ) The spear leaf has already died in this Phoenix sylvestris, and the spear leaf has broken off from the canopy.
(SOURCE: UF/IFAS ) Discoloration of the leaves begins at the leaf tips.

On mature plants,  lethal bronzing affects the palm trees vascular system and these symptoms are similar to lethal yellowing but affects a smaller number of palm species.

According to Brian Bahder, an entomology assistant professor with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences lethal bronzing is killing:

  • Sabal palmetto (sabal or cabbage palms)
  • Phoenix sylvestris (silver date palms)
  • Phoenix dactylifera (date palms)
  • Phoenix canariensis (true date palms)

In a study, the University of Florida found that by June 2016 in Florida there have been 22 counties where lethal bronzing has been detected.

To learn more about lethal bronzing click here .