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Plum pox virus found in quarantined area in Pa.

July 04, 2006

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A peach tree in a commercial grove in Adams County has been found to have the plum pox virus, the first such finding of the year, the state Department of Agriculture said.

"Our surveyors have found the first positive commercial orchard tree this year. It's located in the quarantined area of Menallen Township, Adams County," Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff said.

"There will be no need to expand the quarantine area as a result of this detection," Wolff said.

"A single tree in an eight-acre block of peach trees has tested positive for the virus, and only one grower is affected. In total, 15 acres of stone fruit trees will have to be removed as a result of the detection."

Plum pox virus severely decreases fruit production, the department said in a news release. Infected fruit may appear deformed or blemished and could drop prematurely from trees, it said.

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"However, Plum Pox causes no harm to animals or people who eat diseased fruit," the release said.

It said USDA surveyors have found two residential properties with infected trees. One property is in South Middleton Township, Cumberland County, within an existing quarantine area. The other is in Franklin Township, Adams County, where a small quarantine area will be established.

Homeowners in both places have been contacted and the infected plants have been removed, the department said.

When a virus-infected tree is found, the department establishes a 500-meter buffer zone around the infected tree and orders removal and destruction of all stone fruit trees within the zone.

Plum pox is a latent virus and typically requires 2 to 3 years of testing before it can be detected in a tree.

A small area around the homeowner property in Franklin Township will be quarantined, making the municipality the seventh in Adams County to be impacted by the quarantine, the department said.

"Pennsylvania has an effective eradication program for this disease," said Wolff. "Although we continue to find positive samples, we've seen a tremendous decline in the virus since we started the program in 1999."

A ban on planting stone fruit trees is in place for homeowners in all areas under quarantine.

Plant species included in the ban on planting are peach, nectarine, apricot, cherry and plum fruit trees, as well as many ornamental and flowering fruit trees and shrubs such as purple leaf plum, sand cherry, flowering almond and flowering cherry.

Wolff said his department will continue to survey the affected areas and expects to conduct at least 230,000 tests this year.

For more information on the Plum Pox Eradication Program, quarantine details and the history of the disease, call 1-717-772-5226 or visit www.agriculture.state.pa.us (click on the 'Animal and Plant Health' link, then 'Plum Pox').

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