Lethal Bronzing Disease - LBD
- A new and virulent palm disease spreading in the urban Florida landscape.
- LBD is a phytoplasma that cannot exist in the open atmosphere. It is therefore carried within the body of a small leaf hopper insect and/or within the vascular tissue of infected (and often asymptomatic) palms. These are the primary ways that LBD is spread.
- Currently there is no cure or treatment.
- Use of OTC (oxytetracycline) landscape-use approved antibiotic preventive injections can be used to prevent infection but the treatment must be administered via trunk injection which causes permanent trunk injury and it must be performed every few months, indefinitely.
- The most affected palms in Florida, as of 2022, are sylvester palm (Phoenix sylvestnis) and Cabbage/sabal palm (Sabal palmetto). But the list keeps growing every year.
- Both field diagnostics and laboratory analysis of trunk tissue are methods used to identify LBD.
- Once identified in the landscape, it is critical to remove the affected palms in order to mitigate and hopefully stop the spread of the disease.
- The most dangerous palms are the newly infected, asymptomatic palms, because they have the highest level of phyotoplasma and can spread more of the diseases.
It takes a trained eye to distinguish the subtle differences between true “bronzing” and macro/micro nutrient deficiency, as well as desiccation, salt burn, herbicidal damage or other human-induced or environmental stressors. Laboratory analysis of trunk tissue is the best way to positively identify suspected LBD, especially in asymptomatic palms.