The deadliest diseases threatening date palm


Abstract: Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is one of the most important cash crop trees in the world. Palm trees are infected and threatened by certain fungal and phytoplasma diseases such as bayoud (fungal) and lethal yellowing diseases (phytoplasma). Recently these diseases were recorded in many parts of the world, which may threaten millions of palm trees. Bayoud disease destroyed more than 12 million date palms in Morocco, on other hand, lethal yellowing disease has been responsible for the death of more than 7 million coconut palms in Jamaica. Alwijam disease (phytoplasma) has lately been affecting date palms in Saudi Arabia and other countries. The lethal yellowing disease originates from Florida, parts of the Caribbean and Central America, and is also recorded in the African and the Indian Ocean regions. Both of these diseases are spread by leafhopper and planthopper insects. There is no cure for bayoud and lethal yellowing diseases in palms. In view of the difficulties of diagnosis at an early stage, pre-export certification would not seem to offer adequate protection. The phytosanitary measures by prohibition of import of palms from countries where bayoud and lethal yellowing is present, seems the only satisfactory measure (OEPP/EPPO, 1990) recommended to stop spreading these diseases to importing countries. In addition, post-entry quarantine could be used in special cases. It is highly important to raise the level of quarantine in Saudi Arabia to protect date palms from these diseases.

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