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For Immediate Release: April 30, 2004


HDOA Obtains Exemption to Use New Pesticide to
Combat BBTV in Keaau

HONOLULU - Surveys conducted this week by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) have detected the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) in several backyard banana plants in the Kohala area, north of Hilo on the Big Island.  On April 12, the virus was reported to HDOA by a large banana farm in Keaau, Hawaii's main banana-producing region.  Since that report, HDOA has been conducting surveys on east and north areas of the island to determine the extent of the infestation.

 Tests conducted by HDOA this week confirm the presence of BBTV on three residential properties within a six-mile area of Kohala; including the Halaula, Kapaau and Hawi areas.  Preliminary assessments lead inspectors to believe that the virus has been present in backyard banana plants for several years.  Residents in the Kohala area who have moved banana plants out of the area within the past three years are urged to call the Hilo Office of HDOA at
974-4140 so inspectors may attempt to trace forward locations where possible infected plants may have been transported.  In addition, anyone on the Big Island who has received banana plants from the Kohala area within the past three years are asked to call HDOA.  To this date, surveys in the Hilo area have not detected the virus.

In a related development, HDOA applied for and has obtained an emergency exemption from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow the use of the pesticide Provado® to combat the BBTV infestation in East Hawaii.  EPA's emergency exemption applies only to East Hawaii, the state's main banana-producing region.  The order also restricts the use of the pesticide to certified applicators, who are registered with HDOA's Pesticides Branch.

 Provado®  is an insecticide used to treat soil, seed or foliage to control a variety of pests; however, the product is not currently labeled for general use on banana plants.  Provado® is believed to be a more effective and longer-lasting pesticide than what is currently used to kill the aphids that spread the virus.  Due to the significant economic impact that BBTV poses to the banana industry in East Hawaii, HDOA requested that EPA approve the emergency use of the pesticide to help control aphids. HDOA hopes to obtain EPA approval for the use of the pesticide on other islands. 

 BBTV is one of the most serious diseases of banana plants.  BBTV-infected plants exhibit severely stunted growth in the plant crown, resulting in a bunchy appearance.  Younger leaves are stunted with yellowish leaf edges and may curl upward.  Lower leaf stems and midribs exhibit dark, parallel “streaks” which may form a continuous line, or appear as intermittent blotches.   Streaks may also be viewed in the leaf veins forming a “morse code” pattern which is best viewed by looking from the undersides of the leaves toward the sky.  Infected plants produce deformed and stunted fruits.  In advanced stages, banana plants do not produce any fruits. 

 BBTV is spread by the banana aphid and, more commonly, by people moving and planting infected young plants. 

 Big Island property owners who suspect that their banana plants may have the disease should call the Hilo Office of the HDOA at 974-4140.


Media contact:

Janelle Saneishi
Public Information Officer
Hawaii Department of Agriculture
Phone: (808) 973-9560