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CICLY · Lethal Yellowing Disease of Coconut Palm

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Dying coconut palms in Honduras   Message List  
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Dear Ms. French,


I was out of the country to reply earlier, but I see that you got several replies through CICLY, including one from our colleagues from the National Coconut Program  (Programa Nacional del Coco- PNC) from the Ministry of Agriculture. I hope someone from the PNP (which belongs to the Red Wafaluma – Coconut Network) is able to visit your farm promptly. I will be in touch with them to give support too, if needed. Since you wrote your message in English, I will also answer in English, but will also include a translation in Spanish.


Unfortunately, we are facing several problems in Honduras with the replanted coconut palms of all varieties. There are three main diseases that continue to kill our palms. Each disease has to be managed differently, although in most cases, disease management is not always easy (but we are working on it!). Once someone from the National Coconut Program is able to visit your farm, we´ll be able to give you specific advice. We are also preparing a web site in Spanish with information about the main problems facing coconut producers and others interested in coconut palms. Below this message is a very brief summary (both in English and Spanish) and a few photos of dying palm trees in Honduras. Please see if some match the symptoms in your property and let me know.  It is always helpful to receive digital photos as well as a full text description, like you did, to help  with the diagnosis. If you wish, you can contact me directly at Zamoranommroca@zamorano.edu).


Best regards,



Maria Mercedes Roca



Maria Mercedes Roca, PhD

National Coordinator, Honduras

CFC project for Coconut Lethal Yellowing


Zamorano University



P.O Box. 93

Tel: (504) 776 6140 ext. 2362

Fax: (504) 776 6242

Email: mmroca@zamorano.edu




  1. Lethal Yellowing is still active and continues to kill  the tall varieties (coco tanque), Maypan hybrids (thought to be resistant) and to a lesser degree, also the Malayan dwarfs (the enanos that you refer too).  The nuts fall prematurely, the lower leaves dry up before the new leaves, and normally a “telephone pole” is left standing after the palm dies. We don´t have a resistant variety that survives  to the levels that we would like (also working on it), but the Malayan dwarfs, or enanos have  shown the best resistance so far. We have imported a  new variety from Mexico (Pacific talls) that has shown  encouraging results in Mexico,  and we hope it will perform well in Honduras too. You can also inject your palms with an antibiotic called tetracycline and I or a member of the PNC can give you more information on this.


  1. The “Red Ring” disease  is  caused by a microscopic worm called a nematode and is transmitted by an insect (a wheevil or picudo in Spanish) that fits the description that you give (long tipped nose). The larvae of this insect eat the internal tissue of the palm and  kills it. The initial  symptoms are very similar to those  of LY. To know if you have red ring problem, you cut the trunk and see if there is a red ring in the internal tissue. Also, if you see the picudo near the palms and in the internal tissue, you know you have this disease. This is the easiest problem to manage – it is done  with traps that contain  baits  of fermented palm tissue, papaya, or other fruit, drenched in insecticide.


  1. The Bud Rot Disease. This is probably our biggest problem at the moment and is killing palms of all varieties all over Honduras. The most susceptible stage appears to be when the palms get to the fruiting stage, just as you describe in your message. A group of us (with international help) are working hard to identify the cause of this and we think it is a fungus or a bacteria, or a combination of both. We also know that a single palm can get  mixed infections with two or all three diseases and we see a lot of dying palms with LY and bud rot, especially in the Maypan hybrids that we replanted about 6 years ago. The symptoms of bud rot are different from those of LY. The newest leaf (flag leaf) wilts and then the whole bud (or cogollo in Spanish) begins to rot. No “telephone pole” is left standing and instead, the top of the palm just collapses. There is a foul smell when you cut the trunk and no insects or red ring are visible. The remaining trunk is rotten and soft inside.

(For the plant pathologists reading this, we have been unable to isolate Phytophtora despite many efforts, but we are still trying). The antibiotic injections or the insecticide traps have no effect on this. We need to test fungicides and other antibiotics that may work.





1.       El Amarillamiento Letal del Cocotero continúa activo en Honduras y ha matado las variedades altas (coco tanque), los híbridos Maypan, y a un menor grado, a los enanos Malasinos. Las nueces o frutos caen prematuramente, las hojas bajeras se secan antes que las hojas nuevas y normalmente el tallo queda como un “poste telefónico”  después de la muerte de la palma. En la actualidad no tenemos una variedad que sobreviva a los niveles que quisiéramos (aunque estamos trabajando en conseguirla), pero la variedad de Enanos Malasinos es la que ha mostrado mayor resistencia a la enfermedad. Hemos importado una nueva variedad de México  (Altos del Pacífico) que ha mostrado resultados alentadores en México y que esperamos que también tenga un buen desempeño en Honduras. Para manejar la enfermedad del ALC se pueden aplicar inyecciones del antibiótico  tertraciclina y yo u otro miembro del PNC podría darle mas información.


2.       La enfermedad del Anillo Rojo es causada por un nematodo (un gusano microscópico) y es transmitida por un insecto llamado picudo en nuestro medio. Las larvas de este insecto se alimentan del tejido interno de la palma y la matan. Los síntomas iniciales de esta enfermedad son parecidos a los del Amarillamiento Letal. Para saber si usted tiene esta enfermedad, debe hacer un corte transversal en el tallo de la palma para ver si se observa un anillo de color rojizo en el tejido interno. Si observa la presencia del picudo cerca de la palma o dentro del tallo, se confirma el diagnóstico. De las tres enfermedades, esta es la mas fácil de manejar y consiste en poner trampas que contienen cebos hechos de alguna fruta fermentada como papaya, banano u otra fruta, empapada de un insecticida.


3.       La enfermedad de la pudrición de flecha (o del cogollo). Este es probablemente nuestro principal problema  en la actualidad, ya que está matando palmas de todos las variedades en la costa norte de Honduras e islas de la Bahía. La etapa mas susceptible de infección parece ser cuando las palmas llegan a la etapa de fructificación. Un grupo de colegas (con apoyo internacional) hemos estado trabajando arduamente en  tratar de identificar el patógeno y pensamos que es un hongo o una bacteria, o una combinación de ambos. También sabemos que una palma puede tener infecciones  mixtas con dos o tres enfermedades a la vez, y estamos observando muchas palmas con ALC y pudrición de flecha simultáneamente, especialmente en los híbridos Maypan que replantamos hace aproximadamente 6 años.  Los síntomas de la pudrición de flecha son diferentes a los del ALC. En la pudrición de flecha, la hoja bandera (o flecha) se marchita antes que el resto de las hojas y luego muere todo el cogollo de la palma de pudrición. En lugar de quedar un tallo como  “poste telefónico”, lo que queda es un tronco  blando y podrido que emite un olor muy fuerte (hediondo). Cuando se corta el tronco, no se observa el anillo rojo o el picudo. (Para los fitopatólogos que lean esto, no hemos logrado aislar Phytophtora a pesar de muchos esfuerzos, pero seguimos tratando). Las inyecciones de antibióticos o las trampas con insecticidas no tienen ningún efecto en esta enfermedad. Necesitamos probar fungicidas y otros antibióticos que puedan funcionar.






Wed Mar 7, 2007 7:38 pm

"Maria Mercedes Roca" <mmroca@zamorano.edu>
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Dear Ms. French, I was out of the country to reply earlier, but I see that you got several replies through CICLY, including one from our colleagues from the...
Maria Mercedes Roca
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Mar 7, 2007
9:37 pm

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