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Last modified: 4 December 2005

Contacts and sources of information - Instituto de Investigaciones de Citricos y otros Frutales, Ave. 7ma #3005 e/30y32, Miramar, Playa, Cuidad Habana, Código Postal 11300, Cuba

Occurrence - A problem affecting coconuts in Baracoa was discussed at a meeting of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Cuba in 1882 (at a time when copra/coconut oil had become a valuable commodity in world trade and when coconut planting was being encouraged by colonial administrators). Bud rot was reported in the early 1900s (de la Torre, 1906; Horne, 1908), maybe confused with Phytophthora (Johnston, 1909; 1912). Between 1905 and 1910 a 64% drop in coconut production from Baracoa was attributed to this disease by Bruner & Boucle (1943) who also suggested that the disease was a virus transmitted by an insect vector , pre-dating by a decade a similar suggestion in Jamaica by Nutman and Roberts (1955). There was a period of research into "pudricion del cogello del cocotero" in the late 60s and early 70s (Mijailova, 1967, 1970, 1971; Mijailova & Gordillo Quesada, 1973). Identification of MLO was made by electronmicroscopy (Waters et al, 1980) and of phytoplasma by molecular characterization (Llauger et al, (2002).

There is variability amongst isolates of the LY phytoplasma from the South East region of Cuba by RFLP analysis and sequencing. Some of the Cuban phytoplasma isolates are genetically similar to Mexican isolates. In this region the impact of the disease is very low and it appears that the local varieties are quite resistant to the disease. These varieties are late generation progenies resulting from natural cross pollination between local and introduced coconuts (some from Central America according to Bruner & Boucle) prior to outbreaks of disease in the 1940s. The "Dorado Cubano" is reported to perform well in areas where LY is present and is thought to be a selection from progenies of the Cuban Tall “criollo” and the yellow, red or golden “Indio” coconuts that were introduced.

Spread - In all parts of the country (Isla Grande) except Isla de la Juventud.

Currently active areas - Not epidemic. One phytoplasma expert who was in Baracoa, in May 2005 reported that “while there was LY around it did not look as bad as in other places (Honduras, Jamaica)”. During a (very brief) visit to Baracoa in November 2005 the CICLY moderator, who had helped confirm “MLO” from Baracoa coconuts in 1978 (Waters et al, 1980), did not see any palms with LY symptoms at all. On the contrary, the high number of Cuban Royal palm (Roystonia) amongst all the coconut palms gave support to the "Royal Palm buffer effect" theory put forward after a visit to the Dominican Republic in 1999 (Harries, H.C., Herasme-C., J & Hichez Frias, E. (2001) Why lethal yellowing has not become epidemic in the Dominican Republic. Palms 45(2), 92-96).

Suspected new outbreaks - Sporadic

Other palm/plant hosts - Not reported

New hosts, new vectors, new strains or suspected loss of resistance - Not reported

Research projects - selection; MLO diagnosis by PCR and characterization if possible; epidemiological aspects of disease in Baracoa; vectors

Rehabilitation/replanting programmes - Mainly in Baracoa, Niquera, Pilon and everywhere in tourist areas.
In Baracoa planting and replanting is necessary to sustain the coconut in agroindustry

Economic importance/threat - coconut is one of the three most important fruit trees (after citrus) in the country (with avocado and mango). In Baracoa it is the most important culture and many people depend on the coconut agroindustry.

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