South Asia

Yellowing disease strikes Sri Lanka's coconuts: Coconut trees in Sri Lanka's Southern province have been affected by a yellowing disease, said plantation industries minister D M Jayaratne in parliament recently. The disease is caused by a group of extremely small parasitic bacteria, phytoplasma, which probably came through a shipment of ornamental palms that were not quarantined before entering the island. The disease turns the leaves yellow and causes fruits to drop prematurely. The whole crown of the palm also falls, leaving a bare trunk, say experts from the Coconut Research Institute, Lunuwila. Authorities have burnt more than 10,000 infected coconut trees to contain the bacteria. The institute has declared a 3-km wide buffer zone along Weligama coast in Matara district and is studying the bacterium to ensure the disease does not spread to other crops.

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