EPA approves fungicide for coffee leaf rust

The Maui News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will allow Hawaii coffee growers to use a fungicide to fight coffee leaf rust, a devastating pathogen found on Maui, Lanai, Hawaii island and Oahu.

The state Department of Agriculture was notified Wednesday that the EPA had approved its request for farmers to use Priaxor Xemium, a fungicide not currently labeled by the EPA for specific use on coffee plants but allowed for controlling fungi on leafy vegetables, strawberries, tomatoes, soybeans, wheat and other crops. In March, the department filed a request for an exemption to use the fungicide on coffee plants. The emergency exemption approval will allow 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 fungicide’s producer.

Coffee leaf rust was first detected on Maui and Hawaii island in October and on Oahu and Lanai in January, leading the board to restrict the movement of coffee plants from these islands.

“Hawaii 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 Hawaii 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.”

Under the emergency exemption, coffee growers must:

• Inform the state Department of Agriculture Pesticides Branch at least seven days prior to using Priaxor Xemium by emailing hdoa.sec18@hawaii .gov.

• Wear personal protective equipment as required by the label.

• Follow all directions on both the container label as well as the dealer-provided Section 18 label.

• Report all use/application to the Pesticides Branch within 10 days of application.

For more information, Maui County growers can call Mitchell MacCluer of the Pesticides Branch at (808) 873-3078.

Two webinars on the use of the fungicide are being planned in June.

For more information on coffee leaf rust and the coffee industry, visit www.hawaiicoffeeed.com or hdoa.hawaii.gov/ pi/files/2021/01/NPA-20-03-Coffee-leaf-rust1-21.pdf.

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