By Liz Rahaman

The Agricultural Department restricting the importation of all palms trees from Nevis.

The restriction is due to a fatal disease found in Nevis by tree crop scientists.

Director of Agriculture, Dr. Jerome Thomas, is asking the general public in St. Kitts to cooperate with his department in reporting any sighting of the lethal Yellowing Disease attack on palms trees, especially those on coconut trees.

A small bacteria-like organism called phytoplasma is causing the disease, said Thomas.

He pointed out that small plant sucking insects known as plant hoppers spread the disease from plant to plant.

While there is no known effective cure for the disease, Thomas said that Oxytetracycline Hydrochloride may be used to prevent the spread of the disease to other trees.

“Once the coconut or palm tree has been infected, it will die within three to six months,” he explained and added the first symptom of the lethal yellowing is the premature dropping of most or all of the coconuts, regardless of their size.

The fallen coconuts, he added, would have a brown or black area immediately under the stem end.

“During the second stage, the new flowers that are produced by the coconut palm will wither and blacken. This is quite distinct because the flowers of healthy trees are a golden yellow colour,” Thomas pointed out and added that at the third stage, the leaves would progressively turn yellow and hang, starting from the lower leaves and finishing with the top leaves. Once the top leaves have gone, the palm is dead and all that is left is a bare trunk resembling an electrical pole.

Of the 38 species of palms known to be susceptible to the disease, the coconut is the most susceptible. It has been determined that millions of palms in the Caribbean Region and Florida have died from the disease over the past forty years.