The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a request from the state Department of Agriculture to allow the use of a specific fungicide to help coffee growers manage and control the coffee leaf rust, officials said Thursday afternoon.
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, the department filed a request for a specific exemption with the EPA to allow the use of the fungicide on coffee plants.
The approval, which came Wednesday, 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.
“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 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.”
Coffee leaf rust 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% to 80%.
Growers with questions on the proper use of the fungicide may contact Pesticides Branch staff member Cal Westergard on the Big Island at (808) 974-4143.