Plum pox disease 'eradicated in the U.S.'

October 17 , 2019

Plum pox disease has been eradicated in the U.S., USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach announced earlier today.

"Our 20-year fight against plum pox is officially over," Ibach said at ceremony held by the USDA.

Ibach additionally spoke of the implications of this achievement on the U.S.'s $6.3bn stone fruit industry.

Plum pox was first detected in Pennsylvania in 1999 and is a serious disease that creates great yield losses. The disease affects stone fruits like plums, peaches, and almonds. While it does not kill infected trees, severely infected buds of trees often graft onto healthy trees. Further, aphids carry the virus across large distances.

No other country whose stone fruits are impacted by the virus is known to have eradicated it.

Eradication process 

The USDA points out that the eradication process was a collaboration of The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Agriculture Resource Center, departments of agriculture in impacted states, the Tuscarora Nation, industry, academia, growers, and homeowners.

Some state governments (like Connecticut) had a vested interest in getting rid of plum pox because of the threat it posed to their crops.

The program collected and tested plant samples across states to develop plum pox tolerant trees.

Other elements of the project included removing diseased plants and a temporary ban on the planting of plum pox susceptible varieties.

Pennsylvania and Michigan were the first two states to declare themselves free of plum pox in 2009. Following that, New York eradicated the disease in 2012.

The program executed three consecutive years of stone fruit field surveys in eastern New York which ended in 2018. This marked the end of the singular remaining quarantined area.

Ongoing monitoring of the virus will continue in affected states in order to prevent re-entry. Nursery stock and propagative material will be the focus of future prevention efforts, says the USDA.

The USDA also cites its relationship with stone fruit producers in Canada as a method of ensuring that the disease does not reappear.

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