Thursday, June 24, 2010

Florida avocado growers, scientists battle destructive beetle

Excerpts from an 6/14/10 The Packer article by Doug Ohlemeier.

The south Florida avocado industry remains on alert after a disease that kills avocado trees has moved closer to south Florida.

The tiny redbay ambrosia beetle, which has moved from South Carolina and Georgia into south Florida, spreads the laurel wilt fungus.

The research and development department of Homestead-based Brooks Tropicals LLC has worked closely with University of Florida scientists in assembling a battle plan against the disease, said Bill Brindle, Brooks' vice president of sales management.

He said Brooks' efforts have fed scientists information that could be helpful in finding solutions.

"This disease is a big threat but I think everyone's finally tarting to make progress on the research," Brindle said. "They have a preliminary plan in place for once it (the disease) gets to us."

That plan, Brindle said, details how the industry will combat both the beetle that carries the disease as well as the diseases once it infects trees.

"It (the disease) will increase our costs some, which is never a good thing, but there is optimism that we will be able to survive as an industry," Brindle said.