Ralstonia Hits Florida

October 8, 2004 - 13:22

As if Florida has not had enough bad luck in the recent months, Ralstonia solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 has been confirmed on a greenhouse in Quincy, Fla., according to APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) division’s Phytosanitary Alert System. The PPQ is still running a number of tests to determine the extent of the disease, but at this point, there have been no other reported cases of wilt in the U.S., according to the alert.

According to the alert, the PPQ has confirmed the disease in geranium samples taken from the Florida greenhouse on September 10, 2004. Water samples from the facility’s retention pond also tested positive for the disease. According to the alert, the plants have been traced back to Mexico, but the source of the disease is still unknown. Currently all of the geraniums have been destroyed and the facility has been sanitized. At this time the Florida facility is under a hold order.

According to Dore Mobley, public affairs officer for APHIS, “We did confirm race 3 biovar 2 of Ralstonia on one variety of geranium and in the retention pond on the property. We are continuing to test samples that were taken. There were several additional plants that exhibited symptoms of wilt, so until we have that testing back, we don’t want to prematurely release names of any varieties. The important thing for us is to assure people that right now it appears to be a well contained outbreak at just this one facility; no other nurseries in the country have reported wilted geraniums. All of the plants at the facility have been destroyed, and the facility has been sanitized. That is all that we can really say at that point.”

All day on Friday, the GPN staff worked the phone trying to find out information about this outbreak. After speaking to a number of industry sources including academics, breeder companies and other officials, both in the United States and Mexico, we have been unable to find any trace of the disease other than at this one Florida facility. We have spoken to all three of the major cutting producers in Mexico and they all say that they are within USDA compliance, including having a regular testing program that indicates no disease presence. Coincidently the same day the news broke, Friday Oct. 8, the geranium breeder companies, USDA and federal officials were meeting in Washington to discuss the Ralstonia issue, making it difficult to get specifics about this development.

Please stay tuned to GPN Weekly< for more details. Over the next week, we will track down all the particulars about this story and send them to you in our next issue. Until then, watch out for the rumor mill… we all know there can be a number of details with Ralstonia that are more rumor than fact.

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