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Coffee leaf rust confirmed in Kona

Coffee leaf rust has been confirmed in the Holualoa area.

Discovery of the fungus on the Big Island was confirmed in October. Now, state Board of Agriculture Chairperson Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser said the state Department of Agriculture’s intentions are to implement rules designed to slow the spread of the fungus to other islands.

“Coffee is one of Hawaii’s signature crops, of which production was estimated to be $54.3 million in 2019,” said Shimabukuro-Geiser. “As surveys continue across the state, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture is preparing to establish interim rules that will hopefully prevent the spread of the fungus to uninfested islands.”

Coffee leaf rust spreads more easily than other pests such as the coffee berry borer. Loss estimates range from 30%-80% on yields if left unchecked, highlighting the seriousness of the new threat.

“We cannot manage this all on our own; we’re going to have to manage it together,” said Ray Taggart, farm manager at Heavenly Hawaiian Coffee Farm in Holualoa, which has not been affected by the fungus.

Taggart worries that if neighboring crops become infested by the fungus, it could spread to Heavenly Hawaiian.

“The state and the government need to decide whether or not this culture, the coffee culture, is something they want to preserve for Hawaii,” said Bill Myers, general manager of Heavenly Hawaiian Coffee Farm.

A wealth of information has been spread to farmers in recent weeks since the fungus was found in the state, ensuring as many people as possible have the latest knowledge.

No single treatment is likely to be a complete remedy moving forward. Taggart and Myers stressed how important it will be that coffee farmers take care of their trees in every way possible and ask for help if it’s needed to combat the fungus.

The DOA’s Advisory Committee on Plant and Animals will meet at 1:30 p.m. today, during which an interim rule restricting the movement of coffee plants will be considered.

Email Tom Linder at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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