South Floridians packed an emergency meeting addressing a disease threatening the region’s avocado crop.

The standing-room-only Aug. 5 meeting attracted growers, packinghouse people, scientists and many others who came to hear about precautions that should be taken to keep the redbay ambrosia beetle from spreading the laurel wilt disease, which destroys avocado trees.

Growers hear about destructive Florida avocado disease
Courtesy University of Florida

A large crowd of growers met to learn more about the tiny redbay ambrosia beetle, shown here,  which spreads the laurel wilt fungus, a dangerous avocado disease.

Charlie Caves, packinghouse and plant manager for New Limeco LLC, Princeton, Fla., said more than 200 people showed up at the Homestead, Fla., meeting to learn more about the tiny beetle that spreads the laurel wilt syndrome.

“This was a good meeting,” he said. “A lot of information was provided. They are getting the word out there. There are a lot of concerned people, from growers to packinghouse people to back yard tree growers and fruit stand people to local bankers and chemical companies. Everyone is taking a serious interest in this.”

Katie Edwards, executive director of the Dade County Farm Bureau, which sponsored the meeting, said she was surprised by the amount of interest.

“It was a great forum to get people educated and proactive to start looking in their groves for this to see if they can try to minimize it as much as possible,” she said. “Now that the industry is on board, we will work from here.”

Edwards said the meeting will be the first of several to try to minimize the potential for rumors and miscommunication.

South Florida’s avocado industry experienced some confusion Aug. 3-4 when rumors circulated that the disease finding may not have been accurate.  

The state, however, have confirmed that the tests were positive that the killer avocado disease was found in a south Florida commercial avocado grove.

Randy Ploetz, a plant pathologist at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, confirmed the find at the meeting, Edwards said.