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June 22, 2000

State Board of Agriculture Approves Quarantine for Banana Plants on Kauai

Honolulu - The state Board of Agriculture today approved an interim quarantine rule that restricts the movement of banana plants and plant parts (except fruits) on the island of Kauai and from Kauai to other islands within the state. The quarantine is being established to prevent the spread of the recently discovered banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) on Kauai. Only the banana fruit may be moved because it does not spread the virus.

The quarantine rule takes effect on the date it is published, which will likely be next week. It is valid for no longer than six months or until the Board rescinds the rule. Violation of the rule may result in fines of not less than $100 and not more than $10,000 per violation.

"In order to rid Kauai of this disease, it is important for the whole community to not move banana plants anywhere," said James J. Nakatani, Chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. "Although a tiny aphid is the vector of this virus, the disease is also spread by humans moving infected plants."

The Board approved the rule on the recommendation of the state Department of Agriculture's Plant Industry Division, which has been working with the island's banana growers since the virus was discovered in several areas on Kauai in April and May. The approval of the rule also paves the way for eradication and other mandatory control measures by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA).

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.

In 1998, BBTV was eliminated from Kilauea town on Kauai after a 15-month eradication program that involved the destruction of 25,000 banana plants.

HDOA is also fighting BBTV in the North Kona area on the Big Island before it reaches the state's largest banana growing region on the east side of the island. On Oahu, BBTV is too widespread to make eradication efforts feasible.

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.