Outbreak of Lethal Yellowing in Quintana Roo, Mexico
University of Florida, IFAS, AREC Report FL 82-1
Randolph E. McCoy
University of Florida Agricultural Research & Education Center
3205 S.W. College Ave., Fort Lauderdale 33314, USA
Prepared for: U ,L.A y
Departamento d Fitopatologia
Direction gene al dei;dd;Vegetal
Mexico 21 D.F. je Uiri oi /
v. OQf Florida
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Hyattsville MD USA
This report details results of a trip made by the author to Mexico
January 16 21, 1982 for the purpose of examining and collecting samples
from a disease of unknown etiology affecting coconut palms in and near
Cancun, Mexico. (Fig. 1, 2).
Results of Survey
Description of Disease. Symptoms of the disease in Cancun Island
and Puerto Juarez were identical to those of lethal yellowing (LY) in
Florida and Jamaica. Symptom progression over a 3-5 month period consists of
nutfall, necrosis of new inflorescences (Fig. 3) and a systemic yellowing
and dying of leaves beginning with the oldest basal leaves and extending
upwards through the crown (Fig. 4). Some affected palms displayed a
yellow "flag" leaf in the center of the crown prior to the yellowing of
the lower leaves (Fig. 5). The spear leaves collapse about mid-way
through foliar yellowing and a bud rot ensues (Fig. 3). SARH officials
estimated that 20% or 6000 coconut palms had been lost to this disease
in Cancun as of January, 1982. It had only been one year since the
disease was first noted.
Presence of MLO. Mycoplasmalike organisms (MLO) were observed in
the sieve tube elements.of all LY diseased coconut palms sampled (Fig. 7,
8). MLO were detected in flag leaf and bud tissues. The MLO were seen
only in sieve tube elements of the phloem. These organisms were
polymorphic to filamentous in profile. No helical forms were seen. These
results will be published in the FAO Plant Protection Bulletin (Appendix I).
Presence of Red Ring Disease. One felled coconut palm exhibited
a red ring in the trunk ca 5 cm. beneath the bark. Samples of this palm
were found to contain the red ring nematode Radinaphelenchus cocophilus
Cobb and Goodey.
Vector Survey. A cursory visual examination of palms in the area
was made for the presence of Myndus crudus Van Duzee, the Fulgorid
planthopper shown to transmit LY in Florida. No M. crudus were seen,
however, a longer term study using sticky traps should be used to
properly survey the insect populations of the area. A heavy infestation
of a white fly possibly Aleurodicus dispersus Russel was seen in
Cancun in the center of the LY-affected area.
Epidemiology. Lethal yellowing is a highly contagious, rapid
spreading disease affecting coconut and 32 other palm species (see
appendix II, list of susceptible species). Jumps of 20 km to form new
infection foci are not uncommon. The present outbreak is limited to a
very small geographic area and might be eradicated if ALL susceptible
palms within 1000 meters of the infestation are destroyed, either by
cutting or by herbicide application. Programs in Florida and Jamaica to
cut only diseased palms have failed to stop the spread of LY.
Resistant Palms. Coconut palms resistant to LY are available and
should be used for replanting and for new plantations. The 'Malayan
Dwarf' coconut cultivar is highly resistant and is present in small
numbers in the Cancun area. The 'Panama Tall' coconut is moderately
resistant to LY and is the common variety established on the west coast
of Central America. The 'Maypan' is a vigorous growing coconut palm
that is a hybrid between the 'Malayan Dwarf' and 'Panama Tall' cultivars
and is also highly resistant to LY. Palm species and varieties resistant
to LY in Florida are listed in appendix III.
Antibiotic Application. Treatment of coconut palms with the anti-
biotic oxytetracycline at 4 month intervals is used in Florida for
control of LY. Preventative treatment will slow the spread of disease
but will not stop it. I do not recommend its widespread use except as
a temporary measure for protection of particularly valuable palms such
as in seed orchards or in ornamental plantings. The best long term
control is the planting of resistant varieties. Oxytetracycline
response may be used to verify the diagnosis of LY.
Fig. 1, 2.
Lethal yellowing diseased coconut palms near Puerto Juarez,
Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Fig. 3. Necrotic spear leaf and inflorescences taken from coconut palm in Fig. 4.
S VI L
Fig. 4. Felling a lethal yellowing diseased palm. Symptoms included yellowing
and browning of basal fronds, and inflorescence and spear leaf
necrosis (Fig. 3)
Fig. 5. Coconut palm with early symptoms of lethal yellowing. Only one
inflorescence was necrotic and a "flag" leaf (arrow) was the
only yellow leaf.
Fig. 6. Bud taken from palm in Fig. 4. MLO were detected in young leaf bases.
I* ;V '! -'
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Fig. 7, 8. Electron micrographs of mycoplasmalike organisms within the sieve
tube elements of lethal yellowing diseased coconut palms from
Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Bar = pm.
Fig. 7, 8.
Electron micrographs of mycoplasmalike organisms within the sieve
tube elements of lethal yellowing diseased coconut palms from
Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Bar = pm.
1 Outbreaks and new records FAO Plant Protection Bulletin
S. Accepted for Publication 17 March 1982
4 R. E. McCoy and R. C. Norris, University of Florida, 3205 S.W.
5 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314, USA, and G. Vieyra, and
6 S. Delgado, SARH, Direction General de Sanidad Vegetal, Dept.
7 Fitopathologia, Guillermo Perez Valenzuela 127, Mexico 21, D.P.
9 Lethal yellowing disease of coconut palms1
10 Lethal yellowing disease has decimated coconut palm (Cocos
11 nucifera L.) populations in Jamaica, Cuba, and Florida in the Caribbean
12 Basin, and in Togo and Dahomy in western Africa2'3'. We report the
13 first occurrence of this disease in a coconut growing area of mainland
14 Central America.
15 In January 1982 the senior author visited the northeastern region
16 of the Yucatan Peninsula under the cooperative sponsorship of the
17 United States Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health In-
18 section Service, and the Direction General de Sanidad Vegetal, Mexico.
19 Numerous dying coconut palms in Cancun and Puerto Juarez in the State
20 of Quintana Roo had symptoms typical of lethal yellowing (figure 1).
21 A small number of dying palms were observed on Isla Mujeres to the north
22 of Cancun. Palms exhibited inflorescence necrosis, abscission of fruit,
23 systemic foliar yellowing beginning in the oldest leaves, and a terminal
24 rot of the growing point. Death of affected palms ensued about 4
25 months after the appearance of initial symptoms. Samples returned to
26 Florida for electron microscopic analysis contained mycoplasmalike
27 organisms within sieve tube elements of the phloem, thus confirming the
1 diagnosis of lethal yellowing (figure 2).
2 A confounding factor in field identification of lethal yellowing
3 in Cancun was the coincident occurrence of red ring disease as reported
4 previously and confirmed by us. A brick-red ring was clearly visible
5 in the trunk of one felled palm and the nematode Radinaphelenchus coco-
6 philus (Cobb and Goodey) was observed in tissue from this palm. To
7 the casual observer, these two diseases would be difficult to
9 Although Bedford et al.5 found red ring disease in Cancun in 1977,
10 large numbers of dying palms were not observed until 1981 when approxi-
11 mately 20% of the coconut palms in Cancun were lost. Our observations
12 in January 1982 were that the majority of dying palms had symptoms of
13 lethal yellowing. Only one case of red ring was identified. The loss
14 of 20% of the coconut palm population in Cancun in one year is consistent
15 with the rate of spread of lethal yellowing in Florida arid Jamaica3-
16 Considering the demonstrated epidemic potential of lethal yellow-
17 ing, this outbreak poses a serious threat to commercial coconut product-
18 ion in the Yucatan Peninsula and to all of Central America.
19 lFlorida Agricultural Experiment Station Journal Series No. 3670
20 2Corbett, M. K. 1959. Disease of the coconut palm. Principes 3:5-13.
21 3McCoy, R. E. 1976. Comparative epidemiology of the lethal yellowing,
22 Kaincope and Cadang-Cadang diseases of coconut palm. Plant Dis. Reptr.
24 4Steiner, K. G. 1976. Epidemiology of Kaincope disease of coconut
25 palms in Togo. Plant Dis. Reptr. 60:613-617.
26 SBedford, G. 0., Mundo Ocampo, M, and Reyes, F. 1978. Mexico: red rin
S 27 and Rvnchophorus palmarum on coconut palms. FAO Plant Prot. Bull.26:29.
Coconut palms affected by lethal yellowing in the Yucatan
Figure 2. Mycoplasmalike organisms within the sieve tube element of
a dying coconut palm in Cancun, Mexico, cw = cell wall, 20,000 x.
FFLORIDA FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE G CONSUMER SERVICES
,' o0 & DIVISION OF PLANT INDUSTRY / DOYLE CONNER BUILDING / 1911 S.W. 34TM STREET
DOYLE CONNER. COMMISSIONER POST OFFICE BOX 1269 / GAINESVILLE 32602 / TELEPHONE 904-372-3505
TO: ALL REGISTERED NURSERIES AND STOCK DEALERS IN DADE,
BROWARD, PALM BEACH, MONROE, HENRY, MARTIN, AND
FROM: R. L. KING
SUBJECT: LETHAL YELLOWING QUARANTINE
1. Aiphanes lindeniana (H. Wendl.) H. Wendl.
2. Allagoptera arenaria (Gomes) Kuntze
3. Arenga engleri Becc.
4. Arikuryroba schizophylla (Mart.) Bailey (Arikury palm)
5. Borassus flabellifer L. (Palmyra palm)
6. Caryota mitis Lour. (Cluster fish-tail palm)
7. Chrysalidocarpus cabadae H. E. Moore (Cabada palm)
8. Cocos nucifera L. (Coconut palm) all varieties, including Malayan dwarf
9. Corypha elata Roxb. (Buri palm, Gebang palm)
10. Dictyosperma album (Bory) H. Wendl. & Drude (Hurricane or Princess palm)
11. Gaussia attenuata (0. F. Cook) Beccari (Puerto Rican Gaussia)
12. Howeia belmoreana (C. Moore & F. Muell.) Becc. (Sentry palm)
13. Hyophorbe (Mascarena) verschaffeltii H. Wendl. (Spindle palm)
14. Latania spp. (all species)
15. Livistona chinensis (N. J. Jacquin) R. Br. ex Mart. (Chinese fan palm)
16. Nannorrhops ritchiana (W. Griffith) J. E. T. Aitchison (Mazari palm)
17. Neodypsis decaryi Jumelle (Triangle palm)
18. Phoenix canariensis Hort. ex Chab. (Canary Island date palm)
19. Phoenix dactylifera L. (Date palm)
20. Phoenix reclinata Jacq. (Senegal date palm)
21. Phoenix sylvestris (L.) Roxb. (Sylvester date palm)
22. Pritchardia spp. (all species)
23. Ravenea hildebrandti Wendl. ex Bouche
24. Trachycarpus fortunei (Hook.) Wendl. (Chinese windmill palm)
25. Veitchia merrillii (Becc.) H. E. Moore (Christmas palm, Manila, or Adonidia)
26. Veitchia montgomeryana H. E. Moore (Montgomery's palm)
Quarantine Area Entire counties of Broward, Dade, Hendry, Martin, and Palm
Beach; and that portion of Monroe County not considered to be mainland.
Suppressive Area Collier County. This county has been engaged in an intensive
injection and tree removal project on all hosts exhibiting Lethal Yellowing
symptoms for the purpose of hopefully achieving complete eradication. Therefore,
all host material moving into Collier County from the Quarantine Area must be
accompanied by a special permit.
Florida Requirements A special permit is required for movement of all hosts
outside both the Quarantine and Suppressive areas. If anyone is interested in
obtaining a permit, contact your local Division of Plant Industry Agricultural
California Requirements California will not accept any host material ori-
ginating in the Lethal Yellowing regulated areas. Any such material arriving
there from these areas will be destroyed or returned to the shipper.
Hawaii Requirements All palm plants and parts thereof, originating from any
area in Florida are prohibited.
Louisiana Requirements All palm trees which originate in a Lethal Yellowing
infested county or 25 miles from a known infection (whichever is the farthest)
are refused entry. Nonhost palms may be moved from a noninfested county but
must be accompanied by a certificate of origin stating the palms originated in
an area free of Lethal Yellowing.
Mississippi Requirements Host plants from regulated areas prohibited entry.
Host plants from outside of regulated areas prohibited, unless accompanied by a
Florida certificate stating the origin of the shipment.
Puerto Rico Requirements The introduction of all varieties of palms, products
of palm and palm seeds into the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, from any place
outside thereof, is prohibited.
Texas Requirements All host plants listed above, Arecastrum romanzoffianum
S (Cocos plumosus or queen palm) and Phoenix roebelenii (Pygmy date palm) are
refused entry into Texas, if plants originated in the regulated area of Florida.
cc: Division of Plant Industry Personnel; regulatory officials of other states;
County Extension Directors; Drs. R. E. McCoy, J. T. Woeste, H. H.
Wilkowske, D. L. Thomas, Ed Freeman, Gary Simone, J. A. Reinert, James H.
Tsai, W. B. Ennis, Jr., H. M. Donselman, H. G. Basham, F. W. Howard, John
Popenoe; Mr. Charles Dunn, and Mr.-Stanley Kiem.
Common and scientific names of ornamental and economically
important palm species that are not known to be susceptible
African oil palm
Areca palm, cane palm
Cuban royal palm
European fan palm
Florida royal palm
Hispaniolan royal palm
Puerto Rican hat palm
Pygmy date palm
Elaeis guineensis Jacq.
Chrysalidocarpus lutescens H. Wendl.
Sabal palmetto (Walt.)Lodd.ex Schult.
Roystonea regia (HBK) O.F. Cook
Chamaerops humilis L.
Roystonea elata (Bartr.) F. Harper
Roystonea hispaniolana L.H. Bailey
Butia capitata (Mart.) Becc.
Thrinax morrisii H. Wendl.
Ptychosperma macarthurii (H.Wendl.)Nichols
Arecastrum romanzoffianum (Cham.) Becc.
Acoelorrhaphe wrightii (Griseb. & H.Wendl.)
H.Wendl. ex Becc.
Bactris gasipaes (HBK) L.H. Bailey
Sabal causiarum (O.F.Cook) Becc.
Phoenix roebelenii O'Brien
Coccothrinax argentata (Jacq.)L.H. Bailey
Ptychosperma elegans (R.Br.) Blume
Arenga pinnata (Wurmb) Merrill
Thrinax radiata Lodd.ex Schult. & Schult.
Washingtonia robusta H. Wendl.
Washingtonia filifera (L. Linden)