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Coffee leaf rust has now been found on Molokai and Kauai

The Maui News

Coffee leaf rust has now been found on all major Hawaiian islands after the pathogen was detected on Molokai and Kauai, the state Department of Agriculture confirmed Tuesday.

On June 14, department staff were conducting a survey of feral coffee plants on Molokai when they detected a low-level infestation on two coffee plants in a field of 50 wild coffee plants in Kaunakakai. Coffee leaf rust was confirmed on June 23, and subsequent surveys found more infestations on the east end that were estimated to have been there for at least three months.

On June 28, a commercial coffee grower in Kilauea on Kauai reported a possible coffee leaf rust infection. Department staff collected samples and confirmed coffee leaf rust on July 9. Preliminary assessments indicate that the pathogen had been on Kauai for at least six months.

First discovered in Sri Lanka in 1869, coffee leaf rust is a devastating coffee pathogen that can cause severe defoliation of coffee plants, resulting in greatly reduced photosynthetic capacity.

Coffee leaf rust has been surfacing in different locations since it was first detected in the state in October on Maui and Hawaii island. The pathogen was found on Oahu and Lanai in January, prompting the Board of Agriculture to restrict the movement of coffee plants, plant parts and other coffee leaf hosts from infected islands to try to stop the spread of the disease.

Since coffee leaf rust has been detected statewide, the department is reassessing the restrictions but will keep them in place until the board takes further action or the interim rule on the restrictions lapses in November.

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