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March 1, 2001

HDOA Completes Banana Virus Eradication in North Kona
Disease-Free Banana Plants will be Distributed to Affected Residents

North Kona - The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) today completed "Project Eradication," a two-year effort to eradicate the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) on the Big Island. In doing so, the department lifted the ban on planting banana plants in the North Kona area.

"It's been a long haul for Project Eradication, and the department and the Big Island banana industry truly appreciate that Kona residents stayed with us through the whole process," said James J. Nakatani, Chairperson of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. "As a follow up, we also ask that people be careful on where they obtain their replacement banana plants."

As a gesture of thanks to the Kona residents who lost their banana plants in the eradication effort, the Hawaii Banana Growers Association will be giving away disease-free keiki banana plants to the affected property owners. One free replacement plant will be provided to each property owner whose banana trees were destroyed during the eradication program. The association will be distributing disease-free apple banana plants and tissue-cultured Williams variety on the following two days:

Saturday, March 10
Imin Center in Holualoa
76-5877 N. Kona Belt Road
10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 17
University of Hawaii's Kainaliu Experiment Station
Mamalahoa Highway across from Aloha Theatre
10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

While "Project Eradication" is completed, a quarantine that prohibits movement of banana plants is still in effect on the islands of Kauai and Oahu. Absolutely no banana plants should be transported from Kauai or Oahu to the neighbor islands.

"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 "wait-period" since October 11, 2000, during which no banana plants were allowed to be planted to ensure that the aphids that transmit the disease have died.

BBTV, a serious viral disease of banana plants, posed 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.

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