Update on SOD

April 16, 2004 - 11:59

Since the announcement of the 2004 Sudden Oak Death (SOD) outbreak in California, there has been new information flowing in every week about the disease and what is going on throughout the country. Despite the fact that, to date, the only reported cases have been in nursery stock, we have been getting phone calls from people in the greenhouse crops industry wondering if it is going to hit them. Here is some information that will hopefully ease some minds.

According to Claude Knighten, a spokesperson for APHIS, “To date, we know that the pathogen is known to affect 59 hosts and associated hosts [of nursery stock]. As information becomes available and we have more information, we will update it.” For a complete list of the plants regulated and associated with P. ramorum, go to www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/ispm/sod.

That information also includes the recent flowering shrub introductions into the industry. As of press time, there have no reports on any plants related to this industry including annuals, perennials, greenhouse vegetables, fruits and the recent flowering shrub additions.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) began regulating the interstate movement of SOD host and associated host plants. As of March 26, 2004, APHIS put a quarantine on all California nurseries producing P. ramorum hosts and associated hosts. According to the quarantine, no California host or associated host plant material will leave the state without being certified as complying with the quarantine. In order to be certified for shipment, plants are subject to intensive visual inspections and diagnostic testing. Diagnostic samples will be processed through a network of approved federal, state and university laboratories.

According to Knighten, the most current list of states that have imposed restrictions on SOD are: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and West Virginia. Each state has its own quarantine restrictions.

According to the SOD quarantine, all plants and plant material found to be susceptible to the disease will be quarantined. This includes nursery stock, logs, lumber, bark chips, mulch, firewood, sawdust, other plant products that may contain pieces of bark or are constructed from pieces of bark, and associated soil.

To date, USDA has placed plant material holds on 613 nurseries in 39 states that have received suspect plant material. 132,000 plants are on hold, and 1,633 samples have been taken.

In addition to inspecting Florida nurseries for signs of the disease, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) commissioner Charles H. Bronson halted the importation of nursery stock from California and also put a hold on any sale order from Monrovia products already in Florida.

“SOD presents a real and ongoing threat to the agricultural industry, environment and economy of the state of Florida,” said Bronson. “Movement of nursery stock is a recognized channel for the spread of SOD from established areas to new locations, creating a situation of great concern for the state of Florida.”

To date, there are five Florida nurseries that have tested positive for SOD. According to the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association (FNGA) and the Gainesville Sun, the effected nurseries are Tallahassee Nursery in Tallahassee, Phillips Garden Center, Pat’s Nursery in Green Grove Springs, Plant Ranch Nursery and Trad’s Garden Center, all of Jacksonville.

Another state that has found the pathogen on their hands is Georgia. The Georgia Department of Agriculture has verified the presence of SOD in five Georgia nurseries on samples of camellias that were imported from Monrovia Nursery in Calif. More than 50 nurseries in Georgia that received shipments of susceptible plants from California are also being tested. Infected plants will be incinerated.

More than 100 plant samples were taken from nurseries in Florida that were customers of Monrovia Growers in Azusa, Calif., after the March 12, 2004 announcement that the disease was present in Monrovia. Infected plants were also found at Specialty Plants, Inc. in San Marcos, Calif.

As of April 13, 2004, Monrovia received notification from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) that all samples collected at the company’s nursery on March 22 tested negative for the plant pathogen. “We are extremely pleased that our Visalia nursery tested negative,” stated Richard Vanlandingham, chief executive officer for Monrovia. “Our customers had the added assurance that our Visalia nursery plants are confirmed to be SOD-free.”

According to Monrovia media contacts, the USDA issued a compliance agreement that allows interstate shipment of SOD-regulated hosts and associated host plants. As a precaution, Monrovia has kept camellias at the Visalia nursery on hold for several months of retesting.

As of March 30, 2004, Hines Horticulture, Inc. also announced that all of their California nursery growing facilities have tested free from P. ramorum. “We are extremely pleased to have tested negative,” said Dave Fujino, vice president and company spokesperson for government affairs. Rob Ferguson, president and CEO, added, “I am very please that Hines is one of the first nurseries to receive certification from USDA, and we’re now ready to return to full shipping practices with the added assurance that our plant material has been confirmed to be SOD-free.”

On March 19, the company allowed a voluntary suspension of SOD host and associated host plant shipments as a precautionary measure, even though none of their nurseries tested positive. According to Hines, it will continue to monitor the situation closely and take proactive actions to assist the industry and attempt to minimize any negative impact to Hines or its customers.

The USDA has been seeking emergency funding of at least $40 million for quarantine efforts, trace-forwards and trace-backs of suspect plant material, and an aggressive national survey. The survey will focus on both nurseries and targeted natural area sites. According to the April 1 USDA pest managers report, the federal government has provided $7.4 million in funding for 2004.

$1.5 million will go to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for research on horticultural aspects of P. ramorum, including $250,000 for a new genomics research program at the US Davis ARS laboratory for analysis of resistance to the pathogen. APHIS received $2 million for quarantine enforcement, inspection and monitoring. The USDA Forest Service Research received $2 million for SOD research, and $1.7 million went to the USDA Forest Service, State and Private Forestry for SOD management, monitoring and education.

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