LOS ANGELES >> The worst disease known to the citrus industry may have arrived in California on a bud of friendship.
A graft of pomelo — a symbol of good fortune and prosperity in many Asian cultures — was the likely source of the state’s first documented case of huanglongbing, a citrus disease with no known cure, say researchers involved in the investigation. The suspected plant shoot, or budwood, was passed freely among San Gabriel Valley church friends who loved to garden and experiment with hybridization, according to residents.
Until a month ago, California was the last major citrus-growing region in the world to avoid a scourge that has decimated groves in China, Brazil and Florida. The disease arrived the way experts had long predicted: in a tree in a Southern California yard. Now, agriculture officials are scrambling to slow the disease’s march north and save a $2 billion industry based in the Central Valley.
Authorities launched a massive containment effort involving quarantines, pesticides and public hearings when a lemon-pomelo tree in Mary Wang’s lush Hacienda Heights yard tested positive for the disease on March 30. The sickly looking tree was quickly removed for study.
Hawaii agriculture officials are asking for the public’s help in spotting infestations of the stinging nettle caterpillar, which appears to have recently spread to Kauai.
The state Department of Agriculture said Wednesday Kauai residents may begin to see more of the bugs during the summer, the peak months for the species.
The Big Island, Maui, and Oahu already have established populations of the caterpillar, which carries a painful sting.
Last August, a Kauai plant nursery owner found one and turned it in to the agency’s plant quarantine branch. The department has since found adult moths in Wailua, Kapaa and Kilauea.
The caterpillar is white and has a long stripe running down its back. Those allergic to the bug may have difficulty breathing or develop other serious symptoms after being stung.
KAILUA-KONA (AP) – Coffee plants and unroasted beans from Hawaii’s Big Island are being quarantined in hopes of preventing the spread of a crop-destroying pest from Kona farms to other islands.
The Hawaii Board of Agriculture unanimously approved the emergency quarantine Tuesday due to the coffee berry borer, which has been found in 21 West Hawaii farms but hasn’t been seen on other islands.
The quarantine restricts the movement of coffee plants, plant parts, green beans and bags unless the items are treated with pesticides or heating methods to kill the beetle and its larvae, according to the Department of Agriculture.
”Movement of green beans is restricted unless it’s fumigated,” said Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi.
The beetle was first detected in West Hawaii-grown coffee beans in mid-September. Agriculture officials haven’t yet determined how it arrived on the Big Island.
The quarantine could last up to a year. It doesn’t apply to farmers who are sending green beans out of state.
In response to the threat posed by the coffee berry borer, state agriculture officials are preparing to establish a quarantine on the transport of green coffee beans from South Kona.
The pest’s presence was confirmed Sept. 8. Hawaii was one of the few remaining coffee-producing areas in the world that had not been infested by the bug, which has been known to cut crop production up to 20 percent.
Lyle Wong, plant industry administrator with the state Department of Agriculture, said Friday the Plants and Animals Advisory Committee would meet in a week or so on whether to recommend a quarantine be enacted.
He said a meeting was held Monday, but due to a failure to advertise it six days beforehand, another meeting must be called.
“What went before the advisory board was a proposal for quarantine of the whole Kona coast, but we will have to do it again,” he said.
If the pest is deemed an “immediate emergency” and the committee passes the recommendation, it will go before the Department of Agriculture board for approval and implementation, Wong said.
A quarantine means that green, or non-roasted, coffee beans would have to be treated with heat or an insecticide before they could be shipped off island.
Pet owners run out of patience with the shortage of inspectors and longer waits at Honolulu Airport’s quarantine station
The line of tired and weary pet owners can stretch out the door at the Honolulu Airport’s animal quarantine office, and tempers occasionally grow testy.
In just the last three weeks, the anti-rabies quarantine station has seen as many as 60 pet owners per day trying to squeeze through a time window that used to be 12 hours a day.
Since the number of inspectors reviewing both applications and animals was cut to two from four in December and mandatory furlough days went into effect, pet owners now have 31/2 fewer hours to get their pets processed through the increasingly busy quarantine station below Gate 26.
Sorry Bo. The first family may be vacationing in Hawaii this holiday season, but the first dog will be stuck in cold, snowy D.C.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture said that the Portuguese water dog will not be allowed into the state thanks to strict anti-rabies quarantine rules.
Had the family elected to bring Bo, he would have had to either spend 120 days in quarantine or endure two rounds of rabies vaccinations and a 120-day waiting period.
The Honolulu Advertiser also notes that Bo "would have been subject to Hawai’i’s sometimes contradictory leash laws. City ordinances require dogs to be leashed on Kailua Beach — and their owners to clean up their feces. But the State Department of Land and Natural Resources — which has jurisdiction over the ocean — allows dogs to swim in the water without leashes, Laura Stevens, DLNR’s education and outreach coordinator, said today."
In light of concerns about potential layoffs and/or furloughs facing the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Mayor Tavares has organized a group of individuals to bring the most up-to-date information to various Maui communities. The Mayor feels this is an important investment of our time because the decisions that are ultimately made will impact all of us to varying degrees. A shortage of agricultural inspectors could pose a host of threats to our environment, agriculture industry, tourism, and public health and safety.
The group of presenters include Anna Mae Shishido – Maui County Supervisor of the Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Branch, Warren Watanabe – Executive Director of the Maui County Farm Bureau, Teya Penniman – Manager of the Maui Invasive Species Committee, and myself.
The Kula Community Association has graciously agreed to host our group at its next meeting, which will be open to its entire membership and the community-at-large. It will be held at the Kula Elementary School cafeteria on Tuesday, October 6th, starting at 6:00 p.m.
Please join us if you can and feel free to invite your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to this very important meeting. We will provide you with the most current information and let you know how to stay informed about this issue and what you can do to help out.
Office of the Mayor
County of Maui
200 South High Street, 9th Floor
Wailuku, Hawai`i 96793
Telephone (808) 270-8299
Fax (808) 270-7870
A national panel criticizes the USDA’s scientific research on the light brown apple moth but affirms the agency’s power to start another round of aerial spraying.
As expected, a panel from the National Academy of Sciences said on Monday that the government has the legal authority to embark on a massive new eradication effort against the light brown apple moth, thereby opening the door for another round of aerial pesticide spraying. But the panel also criticized the United States Department of Agriculture for engaging in shoddy science to substantiate its war on the moth.
The 21-page report came in response to petitions submitted by opponents of the government’s extermination plans. They had asked the USDA to reclassify the light brown apple moth from being a major pest to one that could be easily controlled by farmers. Such a move would have prohibited aerial spraying or other major eradication efforts that the government is now planning.
Opponents believe the USDA and state officials have severely overstated the threats posed by the moth, and have noted that it has lived for more than one hundred years in Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii without causing serious, sustained damage to crops or native plants and trees. The USDA, nonetheless, believes the moth will destroy large swaths of cropland throughout California and much of the southern United States. The agency also considers it a serious threat to native redwood and pine forests.
Agricultural groups fear state layoffs will backlog shipments
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 08, 2009
Agricultural industry executives worry that Hawaii businesses will wither on the vine and incoming food will rot on the docks if the state goes through with massive layoffs of agriculture inspectors.
Plans call for laying off 50 of the state’s 78 agriculture inspectors, 64 percent of that specialized work force.
Diminished inspection capacity could also cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year if additional invasive species get established, industry officials say.
State inspectors both certify products to be exported out of Hawaii and inspect food and plants being imported into the state.