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April 21, 2000

New Outbreak of Banana Bunchy Top Virus On Kauai

Honolulu - The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) reports that there appears to be a new outbreak of the banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) on the island of Kauai. Agriculture officials found several banana plants with symptoms of the virus earlier this week and lab tests confirmed the outbreak in the Kapahi area, which is about two miles mauka of Kapaa town.

The HDOA wants to notify residents on Kauai that they will be surveying the island on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 25 and 26 to determine the extent of the reinfestation. Agriculture officials will be asking residents and property owners for permission to gain access to banana plants to check for the disease. Residents can also assist by examining their own plants for the virus and reporting any symptoms to HDOA.

In 1998, BBTV was eliminated from Kauai after a 15-month eradication program that involved the destruction of 25,000 banana plants in the Kilauea town area. Preliminary assessments indicate that the Kapahi area infestation is not related to the one in Kilauea. The HDOA will be surveying the entire island before determining if further control measures are necessary.

"We knew it was going to be an ongoing battle to keep BBTV from returning to Kauai," said James J. Nakatani, Chairperson of the Board of Agriculture. "We are counting on the continued cooperation of Kauai farmers and residents that helped us in the successful eradication in 1998."

HDOA reminds residents that transporting banana plants from Oahu and the Big Island is strictly prohibited and offenders may be fined between $100 and $10,000 per violation.

HDOA is also fighting BBTV in the North Kona area on the Big Island. The department has extended its "Project Eradication" in North Kona due to residents who are refusing to let officials on their property to kill banana plants in the quarantine zone. On Oahu, BBTV is too widespread to make eradication efforts feasible.

BBTV is one of the most serious viral diseases of banana plants. It is spread by the banana aphid and, more commonly, by people moving and planting infected young plants.

Symptoms of BBTV include young leaves that are stunted, resulting in a bunchy appearance. Leaf edges are yellowish and may curl upward. Lower leaf stems and midribs may exhibit streaks which are darker in color. As the disease progresses, streaking can be found on plant leaves. Infected banana plants produce small, deformed fruits; and in advanced stages, banana plants do not produce any fruit. Banana plants may also carry the virus without showing obvious signs of infection. There are no chemicals that can prevent or cure BBTV.

If residents on Kauai suspect their plants have the disease, call HDOA's Kauai office at 274-3069 or the HDOA's Plant Pest Control Branch on Oahu at (808) 973-9522.