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Beetle-fungus disease threatens crops and landscape trees in Southern California
Date:5/8/2012

RIVERSIDE, Calif. A plant pathologist at the University of California, Riverside has identified a fungus that has been linked to the branch dieback and general decline of several backyard avocado and landscape trees in residential neighborhoods of Los Angeles County.

The fungus is a new species of Fusarium. Scientists are working on characterizing its specific identification. It is transmitted by the Tea Shot Hole Borer (Euwallacea fornicatus), an exotic ambrosia beetle that is smaller than a sesame seed. The disease it spreads is referred to as "Fusarium dieback."

"This beetle has also been found in Israel and since 2009, the beetle-fungus combination has caused severe damage to avocado trees there," said Akif Eskalen, an extension plant pathologist UC Riverside, whose lab identified the fungus.

To date, the Tea Shot Hole Borer has been reported on 18 different plant species worldwide, including avocado, tea, citrus, guava, lychee, mango, persimmon, pomegranate, macadamia and silk oak.

Eskalen explained that the beetle and fungus have a symbiotic relationship.

"When the beetle burrows into the tree, it inoculates the host plant with the fungus it carries in its mouth parts," he said. "The fungus then attacks the vascular tissue of the tree, disturbing water and nutrient flow, and eventually causing branch dieback. The beetle larvae live in galleries within the tree and feed on the fungus."

Although the beetle was first detected in Los Angeles County in 2003, reports of its negative impact on tree health were paid no attention until February 2012, when Eskalen found both the b
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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