Sampling of yellowing palm trees across the island has confirmed the presence of the dreaded lethal yellowing (LY) disease of palms on Antigua. The fungal disease Bud Rot has also been found. Both of these diseases generally result in the death of affected palm trees. The Plant Protection Unit in collaboration with several government agencies and other partners recognizes the impact this disease could have on a number of sectors and hereby advises the following.
1. All palms affected by budrot must be destroyed and adjacent plants treated to help prevent the spread of this disease. Typical budrot symptoms include the collapse and death of the spear (youngest) leaf of the plant.
2. All palm trees in stages 2 and 3 of the lethal yellowing disease must be destroyed. Palms with stage 1 LY infection typically shed their nuts prematurely, mainly from one side of the tree in the early stages followed by a general nut shedding. Stage 2 LY infection causes the newly opened inflorescences ("flowers") of the plant to become brown-black while stage 3 symptoms include the yellowing and subsequent browning and shedding of the leaves of the plant.
3. All plants that are cut down must be taken to a designated area identified by the Plant Protection Unit.
4. Palms with stage 1 and early stage 2 LY infection that meet criteria set out by Plant Protection may be eligible for treatment with the restricted antibiotic pesticide, oxytetracycline hydrochloride (OTC), under strict conditions. The cost of this treatment must be met by the person for whom such treatment has been approved. The Central Marketing Corporation is the sole agency in Antigua and Barbuda permitted by the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board to import and sell this product. OTC will be sold only to certified applicators who can produce valid documentation to confirm this and only upon presentation to the CMC of valid, original documentation provided by the Plant Protection Unit.
5. The ban on the importation of palm plants remains in place. Until further notice, no import permits will be issued for importation of palm plants.
6. Palm plants from Antigua are absolutely prohibited entry into Barbuda.
7. The Plant Protection Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture continues to pursue the acquisition of LY disease-resistant planting material to form part of the replanting effort to replace trees lost to the lethal yellowing disease.
The programme for eradication of the lethal yellowing disease from Antigua is greatly dependent on strict compliance with the stated regulations by members of the general public for its success. The Plant Protection Unit encourages continued compliance with the stated eradication strategy in order to reduce the impact of this disease on our beloved tropical haven.
For further information on matters related to the management of bud rot and lethal yellowing diseases of palms in Antigua and Barbuda, Plant Protection may be contacted at (268)764-7378 and/or (268)764-1255.