New Disease Reports (2000) 1, 7.

Slow Decline a new disease of mature date palms in North Africa associated with a phytoplasma

P. Cronjé 1, A.J. Dabek 2, P. Jones 3* and A.M. Tymon 3


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Accepted: 11 Jul 2000

Slow Decline (SD) or El Arkish is an established lethal disease of uncertain aetiology that affects mature date palms (Phoenix dactylifera L.) in Northern Sudan. It is common along the Nile between Dongola and Merowe-Karema where it causes steady annual losses estimated at 6%. Palm mortality occurs between 12 and 24 months after the first appearance of symptoms. SD symptoms include a yellowing of the lower canopy starting with the outermost (oldest) fronds and progressing towards the young central fronds and emerging spear leaf. All fronds dry white to light-brown and are then shed, leaving an erect dry tuft of young leaves at the top of the trunk which may break off to leave the trunk standing alone. In some case, the white dry spear leaves on palms can be seen from the ground prior to the appearance of any foliar yellowing. Young offshoots of SD-affected palms also show frond yellowing and white spear necrosis as the crown dies. Occasionally, the spear can be pulled out to reveal rotten, foul-smelling basal tissues. Although mature palms were too tall to observe any inflorescence or fruit symptoms, there was no evidence of fruit drop.



  1. Cronje, CPR, , Tymon AM, Jones P, Bailey RA, 1998. Association of a phytoplasma with a yellow leaf syndrome of sugarcane in Africa. Annals of Applied Biology 133,177-186.
  2. Cronjé CPR, Jones P, Dabek AJ, Tymon AM, 2000. First report of a phytoplasma associated with a disease of date palms in North Africa. New Disease Reports Volume 1:

This report was formally published in Plant Pathology

©2000 The Authors