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January 17, 2001

Banana Bunchy Top Quarantine Extended in Kona Due to Discovery of Infected Plant

North Kona - The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has extended the quarantine period for the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) in North Kona due to the discovery of a diseased banana plant growing within the eradication zone.

"Project Eradication," which began in early 1999, called for the destruction of all banana plants within an egg-shaped eradication zone which extended 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. More than 175,000 banana plants were destroyed during the eradication process.

The zone has been in a three-month waiting period since October 11, 2000, during which no banana plants were allowed to be planted to ensure that the aphids that transmits the disease have died.

In December, HDOA personnel located a residence in the northern section of the eradication zone that had replanted 20 banana plants. Upon visual inspection, one of the plants exhibited symptoms of BBTV. The owner subsequently destroyed the plants.

"We appreciate the cooperation we have received from the majority of the community during this whole eradication process," said James J. Nakatani, Chairperson of HDOA. " The department realizes that it's frustrating and disappointing for people to have to continue to wait to replant; however, it is more important than ever that people obey the quarantine."

Once the quarantine has been completed, disease-free apple banana and tissue-cultured Williams banana plants will be provided free to Kona residents by the Hawaii Banana Growers Association.

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.

BBTV quarantine areas 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).

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