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Evaluating regional management strategies for avocado laurel wilt

Robin Choudhury: University of Florida

<div>Regional management strategies are critical for the long-term management of diseases that can spread rapidly and persist in the environment, such as laurel wilt. Laurel wilt affects woody plants in the Lauraceae in natural and agricultural ecosystems. The disease is caused by the fungus <em>Raffaelea lauricola</em> and is vectored by several ambrosia beetles. Laurel wilt kills trees shortly after infection, and can spread via rootgrafts. We applied risk assessment to regional management of laurel wilt on avocado, and evaluated the effects of regulatory efforts, natural disasters, and competing ideas for how the disease should be managed. Preliminary analyses suggest regulatory efforts that incentivize removal of diseased trees and discourage abandonment of laurel wilt-affected groves can help to reduce regional disease, and function more effectively than incentivizing or punitive regulations alone. While competing ideas can sometimes lead to development of better management strategies, they slow the adoption of beneficial management tactics, and can lead to increased regional disease. Natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Irma) may reduce overall disease if affected groves are promptly removed; however, changes in vector behavior and prevalence or reduced management infrastructure that occur afterwards may lead to increased disease. Effective regional management of avocado laurel wilt will require coordination among growers, managers, regulators, and researchers.</div>