News Release: September 25, 2002

Posted on Sep 25, 2002 in 2002 News Releases, News-Releases

NR02-18 September 25, 2002

Banana Bunchy Top Virus Found in Quarantine Area in Kona

Honolulu – The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has confirmed that the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) has been found on a residential property in Kailua View Estates in Kona. HDOA personnel conducting routine BBTV surveys found five infected stems of the “apple” variety banana plant on September 20, 2002. HDOA’s plant pathology lab in Honolulu confirmed the presence of the virus on September 23rd. The infected banana plants have been treated with an herbicide to destroy the virus. Preliminary surveys of the immediate area found no other infestations. HDOA personnel will continue to conduct intensive surveys of the area to try and determine the source of the virus.

The location of the BBTV-infected plants is within the 10-square-mile eradication zone (from Palani Junction south to Kahaluu Farmlots) in the North Kona District that completed Phase I of BBTV eradication in mid-December 2000. This is the first incidence of BBTV being found in within the eradication area since the conclusion of the project. “Project Eradication” was initiated in January 1999 and during the two-year period, HDOA surveyed more than 17,000 properties and destroyed more than 175,000 banana plants.

Phase II of the eradication program began in March 2001 when residents were allowed to replant uninfected banana plants. This phase also included monitoring for possible re-emergence of the virus for five years until 2006.

Although Kona residents are allowed to replant banana plants, a quarantine is still in effect that prohibits the movement of banana plants and parts, except fruits, from the North and South Kona Districts of the island to other parts of the Big Island and to other islands.

BBTV is one of the most serious viral diseases of banana plants and threatens the Big Island’s $4 million banana industry. It is spread by the banana aphid and, more commonly, by people moving and planting infected young plants.

Symptoms of BBTV include young leaves that are stunted, resulting in a bunchy appearance. Leaf edges are yellowish and may curl upward. Lower leaf stems and midribs may exhibit streaks which are darker in color. As the disease progresses, streaking can be found on plant leaves. 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.

Residents in the North Kona area may report suspected BBTV-infected plants to HDOA’s Hilo office at 974-4140.