Scientists are trying to find a way to battle palm tree-killing diseases

Published: September 15, 2021 4:15 PM EDT
Updated: September 16, 2021 7:22 AM EDT

Deadly diseases are killing palm trees but scientists are finding a way to fix the issue.

Cameron Cole, plant health manager at the Naples Botanical Garden, is one of the people who help keep the plants healthy.

“My main concern is usually scouting for diseases and pests throughout the garden and keeping track of new threats that might come our way,” Cole said.

UF researchers say threats like the Haplaxius crudus could lead to palm tree diseases like lethal bronzing and lethal yellowing, which could include fruit drop or leaf discoloration.

At the garden, trees are not dealing with the diseases but Cole said “it is inevitable” that they will see a few cases in the long run.

UF’s Dr. Brian Bahder leads the research.

“What I’ve done is gone tried to bridge the fields between entomology and plant pathology, to have a more integrated approach to not just understanding the disease, but how to control it,” said Bahder, assistant professor at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.

His breakthrough research shows an insect carrying the bacteria that causes lethal yellowing either moved from Jamaica to Florida or from Florida to Jamaica.

In the past, people thought the disease came to Florida through infected plants.

“And when we started looking at some of the other historical documents, it seemed to make sense that the original disease, lethal yellowing, hitched a ride on a population of this insect coming into Florida,” Bahder said.

By knowing how the disease moves, the next step is to better control the spread of it.