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Disease Note.

First Report of Coconut Lethal Yellowing Disease in Honduras. G. R. Ashburner, Centro de Investigacion Cientifica de Yucatan, Apdo Postal 87, 97310 Cordemex Yuc, Mexico . I. I. Cordova, and C. M. Oropeza, Centro de Investigacion Cientifica de Yucatan, Apdo Postal 87, 97310 Cordemex Yuc, Mexico; R. Illingworth, SACRAC S.A., Apartado 299, Centro Colon, 1007 San Jose, Costa Rica; and N. A. Harrison, University of Florida, Fort Lauder-dale Research and Education Center, Fort Lauderdale 33314-7799. Plant Dis. 80:960. Accepted for publication 21 June 1996. Copyright 1996 The American Phytopathological Society. DOI: 10.1094/PD-80-0960C.

Coconut palms (Cocas nucifera L.) in the vicinity of Gibson Point and Flower's Bay on the Bay Island of Roatan, Honduras, have shown symptoms consistent with lethal yellowing disease (LY) since mid-1994. Typical symptoms on affected palms include premature nut-fall followed by necrosis of immature inflorescences, progressive yellowing of fronds, and eventual death of the palm. A visual survey of 440 coconut palms in the affected area in December 1995 revealed that 92% of the susceptible Atlantic Tall population had apparently died from, or were displaying, early to advanced stages of decline. None of the eight Malayan Red Dwarf coconut palms, known to be resistant to LY, were affected. Three symptomatic Atlantic Tall coconut palms were felled and immature leaf bases surrounding the apical meristem were excised from each. Phloem-rich leaf bases were selected from each sample, trimmed of any necroses, and preserved in 5% borax solution for transportation to the laboratory in Merida, Mexico. Samples of total DNAs were obtained by small-scale extraction of the tissues (1) and assessed for DNA of the LY phyloplasma by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (2). All samples tested positive. DNA was also shipped to the University of Florida, Fort Lauderdale, where the positive result was confirmed by LY-specific PCR. This is the first report of LY in Honduras and demonstrates that the disease has moved approximately 800 km along the Caribbean coast of Central America since it was first reported in northern Yucatan Peninsula in 1982. Movement of LY into Belize in 1992, and now Honduras, suggests that the disease may quickly disseminate throughout the rest of the region, thus posing a substantial threat to both coconut production and the rich palm flora found there.

References: (1) J. J. Doyle and J. L. Doyle. Focus 12:13, 1990 (2) N. A. Harrison el al Plant Pathol. 43:998, 1994.