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August 16, 2000
For Immediate Release

Eradication of Banana Bunchy Top Virus in Kona Nears Completion

North Kona - The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) reports that all of the known banana plants in the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) Eradication Zone in the Kona area have been destroyed.

On August 9, 2000, pursuant to a court warrant, HDOA personnel destroyed more than 750 banana plants located on seven properties by injection of a herbicide. HDOA is now concentrating its efforts on searching for and destroying any regrowth of previously destroyed banana plants and for any banana plants that may be hidden from view in order to eliminate the host material of the virus.

The public is being asked to report any live banana plants within the Eradication Zone to HDOA's Kona office at 323-7594 or the Hilo office at 974-4140. The "egg-shaped" Kona Eradication Zone extends from Palani Junction (north) to the junction where Kuakini Highway, Walua Road and King Kamehameha III Road intersect (south) and from the treeline (mauka) to the coast (makai), excluding portions of Kailua-Kona and Kahaluu.

After all banana plants have been destroyed in the Eradication Zone, the department will establish a three-month waiting period to insure that all affected banana aphids, the insect that transmits this disease, have died. After this waiting period, HDOA will announce a date when Kona growers and homeowners may begin to grow bananas again.

In the meantime, a quarantine prohibiting the movement of banana plants and banana plant parts continues in effect on Oahu, Kauai, and in the North and South Kona districts. (Movement of banana fruit is allowed). Violations of the quarantine may result in fines up to $10,000 per incident.

BBTV is a serious viral disease of banana plants and is a major threat to the Big Island's $4 million banana industry. 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 and the only sure method of controlling its spread is to destroy all the plants in the affected area.

Bananas are the state's 11th largest commodity, with production reaching 24.5 million pounds in 1999 and bringing in more than $8.5 million into the state's economy that year. Statistics for 1999 also indicate that the Big Island led the state in banana production with output of 11.8 million pounds.

For more information on BBTV in Hawaii, call the HDOA Plant Pest Control Branch on Oahu at 973-9522.