Fungus threatens Florida avocados

A tree-killing fungus has made its way down to Homestead, Florida, from Georgia and is now threatening avocado trees countywide.

According state agriculture officials, the disease could harm South Florida's $12.7 million avocado industry and kill trees that have become a staple of Miami backyards.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman Mark Fagan's description of the situation was grim and concise.

``At this point, if your tree becomes infected, it will die,'' he said.

Scientists recently discovered a case of laurel wilt disease, which is carried by the redbay ambrosia beetle, in an avocado sample taken from a grove in Homestead.

The fungus kills trees in the laurel family — such as redbay and avocado — by infecting the sapwood, which in turn restricts the flow of water and causes leaves to wilt.

The case discovered last week marks the first time laurel wilt has been found in an area of commercial avocado crops.

Read the complete story at