Sri Lanka coconut palms hit by deadly yellowing disease

Feb 20, 2008 (LBO) – A bacteria spreading the lethal yellowing disease on coconut palms has entered Sri Lanka destroying more than 200,000 trees in the southern coast of the island, coconut experts say. The bacteria known as ˜phytoplasma™ came through a shipment of ornamental palms that were not quarantined before entering the island, Salinda Dissanayake, minister of coconut development and nation building says.

The disease turns the leaves yellow and causes most of the fruits to drop prematurely. The whole crown of the palm also falls, leaving a bare trunk, experts from the coconut research institute said.

As a preventive measure, the institute has declared a three kilometer wide buffer zone along the coastal line in the south, ranging from Weligama, 140 kilometers south of Colombo, to Matara which is situated a further 20 kilometers away.

We hope the bacteria will not be able to cross over three kilometers, C Jayasekara, director, coconut research institute, told reporters.

The coconut trees that were infected within the buffer zone had been burnt to prevent the spreading of the bacteria.

The research institute has started conducting experiments to find a solution a