I have seen several dead or dying coconut trees on Caye Caulker. What is killing them ? Is there any way to stop the spread of this disease. ? I have seen several property owners paint the bottom five feet of their trees white, what is the purpose of this? Any other coconut info appreciated. Thank You in advance for your replies....
The painting of tree trunks is typically done to prevent sun scald. The bark is just as vulnerable to sun damage as human skin and the treatment helps protect the tree by reflecting the Sun's rays. As you know, Caye Caulker is a limestone coral island and it is easy to get sunburn, even in the shade, so you can imagine how these trees feel.
If sun scald sets into a trunk, it's much easier for insects and other parasites to invade the tree, which may cause death. I am guessing that the dead trees may have no "whitewashing" applied (that's what it is called in the States), or if it is applied, it has been done too late.
Some say the dwarf coconut tree is more immune to yellowing disease..some say if you inject the coconuts with tetracycline prior to planting that helps. We took picture of our trees up to Baha..Central farms and they gave us free tetracycline ..got to drill a hole 3 inches deep and fill with the antibiotic at regular schedule for a period of time. Also used with a special fertilizer.....which they also provided. Dig a hole 6 inches deep 3 feet out in a circle and put a one inch layer of the stuff, water..apply again in 30 days...one tree died, one lived. Boy does it make the coconuts taste like shit...
Coconut beetles are one of the big culprits. To mistake a coconut beetle infestation for lethal yellow has bad results.
You cannot reverse a coconut beetle infestation. Briefly - a beetle lays eggs in the crown of the tree. It takes a year or so for the eggs to turn into grubs. The grubs eat the heart of the tree and eventually hatch into big beetles. They climb out of your tree and infest everything nearby. The classic, and most effective approach is to recognize the beetle infestation and the minute you do so, to cut down the tree and burn the crown and trunk immediately. That is the only way to kill the grubs and slow the spread of these horrible bugs. One year we lost 17 trees to beetle. The mistake is that people think they can kill the unhatched grubs and somehow save the tree. Cannot be done. You have to cut and burn and if you don't you will insure that all the trees nearby are infested. The tree with beetle will look fine until one day the outer leaves turn yellow and droop - a few days later the you'll see more leaves going yellow or brown. If you don't cut it down and burn it right away you will then wake up one day to the tree's crown having fallen over. It will smell a sickly sweet. By then the beetles have hatched and flown. We've seen folks try to deal with this by catching the beetles with a combo of rotting papaya and poison and honey. What happens is that you do attract beetles - some you kill, others you have land in the tree and lay eggs. The poison kills other animals and really all you have done is to increase the number of bugs in the neighborhood. Beetles tend to infest trees in the 2- 7ear age range. We're also told (unsure of the accuracy of this) that beetles are attracted to the scent of cracked nuts - ergo, that you should clean away debris like that from the base of the tree.
You can tell the difference between lethal yellow and beetle this way --- trees with lethal yellow begin to show symptoms by way of shriveled buds - they stop producing coconuts early in the disease. If you begin to do injections at that point you have an excellent chance of saving the tree. We use Tree-saver products and they work. Be aware that the package Tree Saver sends you has an injection sleeve for the trees that is essentially a shotgun shell-casing. We had mega-problems clearing customs as a result. Ask them to leave out the ammo, and drill a fresh hole for each treatment instead. Lethal yellow is airborne and it can wipe out all the trees on an island or in an area easily if left untreated. Large areas of Florida and Yucatan had this experience. Best to treat your trees regularly!
Beetle-infested trees continue to bear nuts - the onset of symptoms is swift and dramatic.
I've got the injection process down. Its quick easy and cheap. I use a battery operated drill, drill a quarter inch hole, inject the serum, plug the hole with a quarter inch dowel tap it in and then saw it off with a hack saw blade at the surface of the tree. Farm Center sells the serum and its dirt cheap! I inject the trees about every 6 months and it takes about 3 min. per tree. as for the beetles , 100% correct Diane the traps and poisons just attract more Beetles to your trees. Solution is plant more trees. the nuts fall constantly and its easy just to stick them in the ground and let them sprout.