EPA Approves Hawaii Request for Hawaii Coffee Growers to use a Fungicide to Control Coffee Leaf Rust

Posted on May 20, 2021 in Main

May 20, 2021

HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a request from the Hawai`i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) to allow the use of a specific fungicide to help Hawai`i coffee growers manage and control the coffee leaf rust (CLR), a devastating plant pathogen.

The fungicide, Priaxor® Xemium, is not currently labeled by the EPA for specific use on coffee plants, but it is allowed for use to control fungi on leafy vegetables, strawberries, tomatoes, soybeans, wheat and many other crops. In March 2021, HDOA filed a request for a specific exemption with the EPA to allow the use of the fungicide on coffee plants. HDOA was notified of the approval of the emergency exemption yesterday which allows the fungicide to be used for up to one year or until use on coffee plants is added to the product label by EPA and the product’s producer.

“Hawai`i coffee growers now have an added method to combat the coffee leaf rust which is extremely difficult to manage,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture. “Other efforts to minimize the damage and spread of coffee leaf rust include quarantines on the movement of coffee plants and associated material, the import of disease-resistant coffee plants and the development of integrated pest management strategies.”

The EPA exemption allows coffee growers to use the fungicide under the following conditions:

  • Growers must inform the Pesticides Branch at least seven days prior to using the product by emailing [email protected].
  • Personal protective equipment must be worn as required by the label.
  • All directions on both the container label, as well as the dealer provided Section 18 label, must be followed.
  • All use/application must be reported to HDOA’s Pesticides Branch within 10 days of application.

Growers with questions on the proper use of the fungicide may contact Pesticides Branch staff at:

  • Hawai`i Island: Cal Westergard – (808) 974-4143
  • Maui County: Mitchell MacCluer – (808) 873-3078
  • O`ahu: Adam Yamamoto – (808) 973-9409
  • Kaua`i: Emilee Wedekind-Balualua – (808) 241-7140

In anticipation of EPA’s approval, HDOA and the University of Hawai`i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (UH-CTAHR) held two webinars for coffee growers in April on the use of Priaxor® Xemium. Two additional webinars are being planned in June.

CLR is a devastating coffee pathogen and was first discovered in Sri Lanka in 1869 and can cause severe defoliation of coffee plants resulting in greatly reduced photosynthetic capacity. Depending on CLR prevalence in a given year, both vegetative and berry growth are greatly reduced. There are multiple long-term impacts of CLR, including dieback, resulting in an impact to the following year’s crop, with estimated losses ranging from 30 percent to 80 percent.

Since the first detection of CLR in Hawai`i in October 2020, a multi-agency effort involving HDOA, UH-CTAHR, the USDA Daniel K. Inouye Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center and the Hawai`i coffee industry has been working to protect Hawai`i’s $56-million coffee industry.

For more information on CLR and the Hawai`i coffee industry, go to:

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