Cinqo de Mayo may change soon as we know it. The holiday, which commemorates Mexico’s 1862 victory at the Battle of the Puebla, also celebrates the Mexican culture, cuisine and music. Few Mexican restaurants were unfilled as celebrations took place yesterday.
Unfortunately, one of Mexico’s trademark culinary delights, guacamole, is threatened by an invasive species. Laurel wilt, which was just recently found in the seventh North Carolina county, is a devastating disease of redbay trees and other plants in the laurel family. Many of these plants are of ecological and cultural importance, but one stands out for its economic and culinary worth: the avocado — the main ingredient in guacamole.
Laurel wilt is not a secret ingredient you want in your guacamole. Like redbay trees, avocado trees die very quickly following an infestation. Avocado farmers must be constantly on the lookout for the disease, because prompt treatment with a fungicide may save the tree and therefore, their avocado crop.
To find the disease before signs become apparent, some have called in the cavalry — of dogs, that is. Fungus-sniffing canines are using their keen noses to sniff out trouble, literally. They are able to find trees that are infected before external symptoms of the disease develop. This gives farmers a jump-start on treatment and better odds at saving their trees.
While North Carolina does not have an avocado industry, there are some landscape trees here and there that are susceptible. However, the real threat in our state is to redbay trees. We have countless redbay trees in the state and it is irreplaceable for some ecological functions it serves. We also have countless guacamole eaters… they may not be too happy either! If you suspect laurel wilt, please contact your local N.C. Forest Service county ranger.