It was a cold and rainy north central Florida December day, but that didn’t slow down restoration planting of redbay seedlings at a protected site near Gainesville, FL. Strains of redbay that have displayed resistance to the laurel wilt pathogen were planted in the cool wet weather. They will be studied in the effort to save Persea borbonia populations across the southeast by reintroducing tolerant germplasm.
Laurel wilt is an extraordinarily destructive exotic tree disease in the southeastern United States that involves new-encounter hosts in the Lauraceae, an introduced vector (Xyleborus glabratus) and pathogen symbiont (Raffaelea lauricola). USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis data were used to estimate that over 300 million trees of redbay (Persea borbonia sensu lato) have succumbed to the disease since the early 2000s (ca 1/3 of the pre-invasion population). In addition, numerous native shrub and tree species in the family are susceptible and threatened in the Western Hemisphere. Genetic markers were used to test the hypothesis that the vector and pathogen entered North America as a single introduction. With a portion of the cytochrome oxidase I gene, a single X. glabratus haplotype was detected in the USA. Similarly, Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms indicated that 95% (54 of 57) of the isolates of R. lauricola that were examined were of a single clonal genotype; only minor variation was detected in three polymorphic isolates. Similar levels of disease developed after swamp bay (P. palustris) was inoculated with each of the four genotypes of R. lauricola. It is proposed that a single founding event is responsible for the laurel wilt epidemic in the United States.
Today Jason Smith will be speaking at Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources graduate seminar today about the current state and future impacts of Laurel Wilt Disease.
Native Lauraceae (e.g. sassafras, redbay) in the southeastern USA are being severely impacted by laurel wilt disease, which is caused by the pathogen Raffaelea lauricola T. C. Harr., Fraedrich and Aghayeva, and its symbiotic vector, the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff). Cold temperatures are currently the only viable limitation to the establishment of X. glabratus in northern populations of sassafras…
I did a live interview with WGCU’s Julie Glenn today. Hear the latest on the disease and efforts to fight it:
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Laurel wilt research in the news: Miami Herald reports on UF Forest Pathology lab efforts to identify effective repellents to protect avocado trees from Laurel Wilt Disease vector, the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle.
It is my pleasure to invite you to attend this national conference addressing laurel wilt disease, to be held in Coral Springs, Florida, June 16-18, 2015.
Laurel wilt is one of the most damaging invasive exotic tree diseases to affect forests in North America. Current estimates show that hundreds of millions of trees have died, with multiple significant radiating effects on ecosystem structure and function, endangered species and cultural impacts. The disease continues to expand into new areas affecting diverse resources (sassafras in Louisiana and the swamp bay tree islands of the Everglades, for example).
A concerted effort between the research community, agencies, and land and natural resource managers is needed to address this rapidly expanding threat.
This conference provides a timely opportunity to learn the most recent state of knowledge regarding laurel wilt, its biology, impacts in native ecosystems and efforts to mitigate for its devastating effects.
We encourage individuals from across the country to join us and be a part of this important national discussion.
For more information visit http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/LaurelWilt/
Our studies with European bay laurel show it is highly susceptible to laurel wilt. The Disease Note is in the August issue of Plant Disease:
Here is a short version story with an interview I did last week on NPR regarding laurel wilt in the Everglades.