Laurel wilt has proven to be deadly to avocado trees. This fungus is spread by a nonnative insect, the redbay ambrosia beetle. Once infected, the fungus can spread to other trees through roots and improper sanitation.
Jonathan Crane, a tropical fruit crop specialist with the University of Florida, says because the disease moves quickly, identifying its symptoms in the grove in a timely manner is extremely important.
Crane says when scouting for laurel wilt, look for the first signs of wilting on green leaves. These signs can be very subtle and difficult to pick out at first, but Crane says it becomes easier with practice. “Once you’re more experienced with what to look for, you’ll be able to scout more quickly,” he says.
Depending on the size of the production system, scouting every tree can be a tedious task. Crane recommends investing in a drone to help with the scouting, especially if the drone can be programmed to run through the grove by itself. The drone can scout the trees quickly (Crane estimates about an acre per minute), so it is a big time-saver.
The drone films the grove as it flies through, allowing the grower to take a closer look. Many drones also have GPS systems built into them, so if the grower sees a certain tree that is a concern, the drone can give the tree’s exact location. Crane says perhaps the best advantage to using a drone for scouting is that it can be used as often as the grower likes.
Crane adds that scouting needs to occur a minimum of once per week. However, he recommends scouting two or more times per week to be thorough since laurel wilt spreads so quickly. “It’s very important to get that identification because it gives you time to implement a control strategy,” he concludes.
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