New coffee pest may be slow-spreading
The good news for Hawaii coffee farmers, if there is any to be found in the recent revelation that a new virus has been found in a Kona coffee farm, is that the virus may be slow-spreading.
That’s according to Scot Nelson, whose smartphone application, Plant Doctor, was used to help identify the pest, a previously unseen strain of emaravirus. The genus emaravirus is also a relatively recent discovery, Nelson said Friday.
“The positive thing is, the farmer indicated they had seen symptoms about six years,” Nelson said, referring to the Captain Cook farmer who sent him the first pictures of affected leaves.
The symptoms were limited to just a few trees and hadn’t spread in six years, Nelson said. That’s good news, because it means the disease doesn’t spread easily.
Nelson and other scientists found a type of mites on the leaves that are known to be carriers of other types of emaraviruses. Those mites don’t fly and only spread by wind, he added.
The bad news is, unlike fungal infestations, which can be treated, trees infected by viruses may have to be destroyed to kill the virus, Nelson said.
He’s hoping more farmers who have found the light spots on coffee tree leaves, as well as coffee cherry shriveled up like raisins, contact him or the Department of Agriculture, so officials can better study the virus.
Only when he and the department have collected more information and samples, and possibly only if they can introduce the virus to a healthy tree and see the same symptoms present themselves will he be able to definitively say the virus is causing the leaf spots and cherry damage.
The farmer didn’t even wonder about a possible pest on his tree until this year, when the trees weren’t harvested. He took a closer look and saw the shriveled coffee cherries, which appeared to render the coffee beans unusable, Nelson said.
Nelson and Agriculture Department officials will be in Kona next week to visit the farm where Nelson collected his first samples earlier this year. He said he’s hoping to be able to visit some additional farms, including one neighboring the first farm where similarly spotted leaves were seen but not yet reported.
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.
Rules for posting comments
Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Oahu Publishing Inc. or this newspaper. This is a public forum.
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content but the newspaper is under no obligation to do so. Comment posters are solely responsible under the Communications Decency Act for comments posted on this Web site. Oahu Publishing Inc. is not liable for messages from third parties.
IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.
Do not post:
- Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
- Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
- Copyrighted materials of any sort without the express permission of the copyright holder.
- Personal attacks, insults or threats.
- The use of another person's real name to disguise your identity.
- Comments unrelated to the story.
If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon below the comment.