“Leaf Rot Disease” and “Weligama Leaf Wilt Disease” have affected large number of coconut trees in the Southern Province. These diseases are found in Matara District, Galle District ( Habaraduwa and Galle AGA Divisions) and Hambantota District (Walasmulla, Beliatta and Tangalle AGA Divisions).
“Leaf Rot Disease” is a fungal infection infecting the bud leaves, first reported from Weligama in 2000. As the name implies, it involves the rotting of the leaves along with crown reduction, yield reduction and death of the palm in 3-5 years. Fungicides were initially useful, how ever, later became ineffective as the chemical needs to be applied to the bud region.
“Weligam Leaf Wilt Disease is caused by a group of organisms called phytoplasma, which lives in the phloem tissue. The organism affect palms affected by leaf rot disease and other diseases. This is not a lethal disease, how ever, reduces palm vigor and yield.
An extensive programme has been implemented by the Coconut Research Institute to conbat these aggressive pathogens. These are the key strategies of the plan:
1. Maintenance of a disease free boundary and improve quarantine measures.
2. Manage plants in the centre area- As it is not practical to destroy all the coconut plants in the affected area, only the unproductive and aged plants will be removed in a phased manner.
3. Establishment of alternative/inter crops – This is intended to help the farmers cope with the fincancial losses due to the diseases.
In addition, the Coconut Research Institute is conducting research to produce resistant coconut varieties.
Based on a lecture by Dr. L.C.R. Fernando, Coconut Research Institute.