Good News for the Owner of the Palm with TPPD

20 June 2014 Idea of the Day “The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism” Sir William Osler, Johns Hopkins co-founder

I left you a week ago with the news that one of my clients had a Medjool date palm that was confirmed positive for Texas Phoenix Palm Decline (TPPD) a fatal disease of expensive date palms.

Today we were out there removing the tree, injecting the anti-biotic in all the other date palms on the property and grinding the stump. Turned out we had a problem with the stump I had to call the owner about. He was in his North Carolina mountain vacation home and I hated to bother him but this was a decision that had to be made immediately.

“Hi Tom. Sorry I had to bother you but we have a bit of an emergency decision that needs to be made.”
“Sure,” he said in his affable country style.
“I’ve got my grinder guy here to grind the stump and after moving away the dirt on top, he’s found that the palm stump has grown over the years to completely encompass wires that go to your front lighting system. To grind that stump away and be able to plant something new, the only way to do it is to destroy that wiring.”
“Gees.” There was a slight pause but Tom always made fast rational decisions. “Well let’s do it. I’ll call my electrical guy and let him know he needs to re-wire it.”
“Ok. I think that’s what’s needed. Especially since we are grinding two feet deep to make room for the root ball of a new planting. By the way, what are you planning to re-plant there?” I asked.
“Well since the two palms frame the front gate and now there’s only one there it will look badly unbalanced. I was thinking I’d like to plant another date palm.”
Hmm, I was thinking he might want to do that. But I had some concern about it.
“I’ve heard there are some palms that can’t be replanted right back in the same spot immediately without risk of catching the same fungus or bacterium. But I’m not a palm expert. Let me talk to a friend down in Sarasota I know that has years of field experience with palms and will know if this is safe. Don’t want you losing another one!”
“That would be good. Let me know.”
“Sure will.”
And then I was off to track down my buddy in the palm business in Sarasota, who I was suddenly calling every few days recently after months and years of not needing his services.
“Hey Wayne I’m calling you too much!”
“Not a problem, not a problem. Whatcha got?”
“I have this client who lost a Medjool date palm to TPPD and now he wants to plant another one in the same spot. From your field experience is that safe?”
“Yes. Gandoderma root rot transfers through the soil and roots. Even Fusarium wilt has been seen to infect some soils. In those cases you want to wait at least 18 months before you plant a similar susceptible palm But TPPD is transferred by leaf hopping insects that suck the sap out of one palm which carries the bacterium and then they hop to another one and inject it into it. So soil isn’t a concern. He should be fine.”
“Well that’s good news. Because this location needs to match its partner on the other side of his entrance gate.”
“I’d just recommend that he immediately starts the OTC anti-biotic on this palm, even gets a DNA core sample done before he buys it to make sure it’s not infected from the farm, and give a double dose to the one closest to it so it’s less likely to spread. Those palms are expensive to replace and you don’t want to be the one blamed for another failure and possibly paying for it!”
“Wow. Yeah. Thanks for the tip!”
I wrote back the good news to Tom that he could plant another Medjool date right away and he was very happy.
“Great! Can you find one and get it installed?”
I had to laugh. We weren’t really in the palm business and it can be a lot of work to plant these 25 foot high palms. Guess it was back to my palm man for more tips! Poor Wayne! I would owe him more than a few favors now.
Here’s what the ground up diseased date palm looks like now! Waiting for a new replacement 🙂 Removed Medjool and stump ground
And here is the one we need to match, looking healthy and apparently not infected – but Wayne tells me they can be infected without showing any external signs for a while, so it’s on a regular anti-biotic schedule. To match it, I ask for a 15 foot clear trunk with a 25 ft. total crown height. Healthy Medjool that needs to be matched

So I called Wayne up and got all the needed info about planting large palms and found out he was starting to plan for the sale of his company within five years. From years doing management consulting and having had 10 little businesses of my own, I was glad to pass on a handful of things he needed to start putting attention on as he was still running his whole operation himself.
“Now I’m thanking you,” he said. “I think that plan to get my nephew trained and running the day- to-day business with performance incentives toward ownership and writing up job descriptions for everything I do sound like great ideas. So thank you!”
“And thank YOU!”
People helping each other is a great way to play. Now if I could just find the right kind of boom truck to plant that new date palm . . .


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