Lethal Yellowing update.... First the bad news, then the good news

Injecting a palm tree

by Chris Berlin

The last article written on Lethal Yellowing came out in a late January issue of The San Pedro Sun. Since then the public awareness of the situation has heightened to a level where we are finally taking the necessary action to combat the disease.

Lethal Yellowing will win the war on Ambergris Caye but we will keep some ground in the process. There are approximately 25,000 mature coconut trees on the caye and so far 4500 have been treated with OTC (antibiotic). Treatment requests are still trickling in so hopefully we will have up to a third of our trees treated before the disease finally catches up with us. Three years from now we will be one of the few places remaining in the Western Caribbean that has mature stands of coconut trees.

It is sad to say, though, that some of our neighboring districts and cayes will not fare so well - not because they have not been informed of the situation and solutions but rather because the disease is already too far advanced for control or the landowners are not willing to bear the treatment cost.

And then there is always denial and apathy. Our Mexican neighbors in the Yucatan were guilty of this and now they don't have anywhere to hang their hammocks on the beach.

There is usually very little good news that accompanies Lethal Yellowing but at least we can be positive by saying that in certain areas of Belize we are doing the right thing and we can expect excellent long term results.

The following is a status report on Lethal Yellowing in Belize: (please note that the trees mentioned are of the 'loca' or Jamaica Tall variety.) Ambergris Caye has 7 disease centers which are Boca Ciega, the south end of the airstrip extending south for approx. one mile, Yacht Club area, north Tres Cocos, Pescador area, Mexico Rocks area and Basil Jones.

Caye Caulker has two centers with dying trees, one in the middle of town and one on the south tip.

Caye Chapel reports that they have cut down 20-25% of their trees and the rest are continuing to die.

St George's Caye has lost half of its trees in the last year.

There are no symptomatic trees observed yet on Lighthouse and Glovers Atolls or on the rest of the smaller cayes.

It has been reported that an abnormally large amount of trees are dying on Calabash Caye in Turneffe and also on the Sapodilla Cayes in Southern Belize.

The Corozal and Orange Walk districts have lost 90% of their trees in the last 3 years.

The mainland Belize district has lost a conservative 60% of its trees in the last year.

The Stan Creek Valley and Dangriga has lost 75% of its trees but there are not yet any symptomatic trees in the Hopkins area and the Placencia peninsula.

There are no symptomatic trees in the Cayo and Toledo Districts. Additionally, Lethal yellowing has been confirmed on the island of Roatan.

Outside of Ambergis Caye, only 86 trees are being treated in Caye Caulker and 174 in the Maya Beach area on the North Placencia peninsula.

The whole country of Belize is in the process of losing the majority of its Jamaica Tall coconut palms and paid orders for the highly resistant replacement Maypan hybrid only amount to approximately 4000 seedlings countrywide. Ambergris Caye is scheduled for a delivery of 2500 of these seedlings at the beginning of July.

San Pedro Sun

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