EPA approves Hawaii request for growers to use a fungicide against coffee leaf rust

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FILE – Coffee leaf rust (hemileia vastatrix) is examined on a coffee plantation in San Marcos de Tarrazœ, Costa Rica. (Photo by: Edwin Remsberg/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Image)

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a request from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) to allow Hawaii coffee growers to use the Priaxor® Xemium fungicide to control and manage coffee leaf rust (CLR).

CLR is a devastating plant pathogen that was first detected in Hawaii in October 2020.

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Priaxor® Xemium is allowed for use to control fungi on strawberries, leafy vegetables, soybeans, wheat and other crops, according to the EPA, but is not labeled specifically for use on coffee plants.

HDOA officials filed a request in March 2021 to allow for a specific EPA exemption that allows the use of Priaxor® Xemium on coffee plants. HDOA was notified on Wednesday, May 19, that the emergency exemption was approved and the fungicide can be used for up to one year or until its use on coffee plants is added to the EPA product label 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. 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.”

Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture

Coffee growers can use the fungicide through the EPA exemption under the following conditions:

  • Growers must inform the Pesticides Branch at least seven days prior to using the product by emailing hdoa.sec18@hawaii.gov.
  • Personal protective equipment must be worn as required by the label.
  • All directions on both the container label, as well as the dealer provided Section 18 label, must be followed.
  • All use/application must be reported to HDOA’s Pesticides Branch within 10 days of application.

Contact Pesticides Branch staff with questions on proper use of the fungicide at:

  • Hawaii Island: Cal Westergard – (808) 974-4143
  • Maui County: Mitchell MacCluer – (808) 873-3078
  • Oahu: Adam Yamamoto – (808) 973-9409
  • Kauai: Emilee Wedekind-Balualua – (808) 241-7140

CLR can cause severe defoliation of coffee plants that results in reduced photosynthetic capacity. Long-term impacts of CLR include dieback that can impact the next year’s crop. Estimated losses range from 30% to 80%.

Those who would like to learn more about CLR and the Hawaii coffee industry can click here or here.

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