With all of Ralstonia solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 problems that have been in the industry the past few years, the USDA has taken a stance not to divulge any information about the infestation location, the plant varieties or where the plants originally came from. Since having the most accurate information is the most important thing, GPN did do a little investigating of its own to help keep you informed about the new outbreak.
All last week, the USDA was visiting the three Mexican production facilities that ship geraniums to the United States, and as of press time all three of them were certified in compliance with the disease rules and regulations and were cleared to ship product into the United States. Currently, it looks like the source of the disease was not one of those production facilities. Late last week, we did get a confirmation from APHIS that, at press time, there is no hold on any of the facilities in Mexico.
According to Nolan Lemon, APHIS spokesperson, “Currently the USDA is doing investigations of trace forwards and trace backs to try to determine if and where the plants were spread and further distributed, and that is going to be an ongoing process. We are working with the Florida Department of Agriculture Consumer Services to the plant industry, and we’ve put together a joint task force with Florida DPI and units of APHIS that include, our Plant Protection and Quarantine and our Center for Plant Heath and Sciences and the Investigative and Enforcement Services. [Ralstonia r3b2] is a select agent, and the most important thing for us at this juncture is the trace forward and the trace backs.”
Nolan said that part of what this task force does is survey and sample different locations based on the results of the investigations from the trace forwards and trace backs. Lemon also stated that, at this point, there are no other signs that any other plants at the Quincy, Fla., facility show anything resembling Ralstonia solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 other than the original 1,500 plants that tested positive and were destroyed.
Currently, the USDA is still reporting that the disease was only found in one variety of geranium and a retention pond at only one facility in Quincy, Fla.
As you would expect, there are a number of theories running through the industry regarding the actual source of infestation and whether the disease actually came from ornamental plants at all. The question everyone seems to be asking is did the disease come from the cuttings or the retention pond, and if it came from the pond how did the disease get there? Quincy is in the heart of Florida’s tomato industry, which is also a know carrier of Ralstonia. When asked about the “tomato theory,” Lemon said, “At this point, that has not been determined, but it does seem like it [Ralstonia] has been there for a while.”
Right now the USDA and industry officials are bring pretty tight-lipped about what is going on with the disease — a directive from the USDA. However, we are out talking to people all over the industry to see what we can tell you about the situation; hopefully, we will know more in the next few weeks.