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May 3, 2000

Quarantine on Banana Plants Necessary To Fight Banana Bunchy Top on Kauai

Honolulu - The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) is working on quickly establishing a quarantine program to contain and eradicate a new outbreak of the banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) on the island of Kauai. In mid-April banana plants infected with the virus were identified in the Kapahi area, which is about two miles mauka of Kapaa town.

HDOA met with banana farmers in the affected area and they have agreed that the eradication process is necessary to preserve the banana industry on the island. HDOA will also be holding community meetings in the coming weeks to discuss the quarantine issue with residents.

After meeting with farmers, HDOA is proposing to establish a quarantine area of 27 square miles which encompasses an eight-square-mile Eradication Zone centered around the Kapahi area, including Kapaa Homesteads and Kawaihau. The proposed Eradication Zone is bordered on the north by Kapaa Stream, which runs south of Kealia toward the mountains; and on the south by Olohena Road which runs makai to Kapaa City Beach Park. The mountains and oceans represent the western and eastern borders. It has been determined that all banana plants within this eight-square-mile core area need to be destroyed in order to eradicate the virus from the island.

The larger 27-square-mile Quarantine Area will be bordered on the north by the Kealia dirt road as it runs mauka past Kaneha Reservoir, and to the south by the Wailua River as it runs mauka along its North Fork. The ocean will be the eastern border and the mountains, the western border. Following the establishment of a quarantine order by the Board of Agriculture later this month, banana plants will be prohibited from being moved out of the quarantine area.

"The faster we commence this eradication process, the better results we will have in eliminating the disease," said James J. Nakatani, Chairperson of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. "We also want to acknowledge the great cooperation we have received from the farmers and residents. It's not easy telling people that we need to destroy their plants, but the community has been very supportive and understanding."

The official quarantine order must be approved by the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, which meets once a month. The next meeting of the Board will likely be scheduled for May 25. In the meantime, HDOA will be working with farmers and residents to destroy infected plants in the proposed quarantine zone. Residents and farmers are urged not to move any banana plants from the affected areas. If banana plants are suspected to have the virus, please call HDOA. Infected plants are being destroyed where they stand and are not moved to keep the virus from spreading.

HDOA conducted a cursory survey around the island and did not find BBTV in other areas. However, the department will continue to monitor these areas for the virus.

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. The Kapahi area infestation does not seem to be related to the earlier one in Kilauea.

It is illegal to transport banana plants from Oahu and the Big Island, areas were BBTV is still active. 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 with the ongoing "Project Eradication." 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.