Corn virus still on Kauai

SUBHEAD: Seed companies say corn virus under control. Ag Research Center says it is a plant problem without a known solution.

 [IB Editor's note: It is not known what native grasses, insects or other species might be affected or are harboring this decease of Kauai GMO corn production.]

Image above: Damage to corn from maize chlorotic mottle virus decease. From (  

By Coco Zickos on 4 April 2010 in The Garden Island - 

A corn virus that plagued Kaua‘i in the early 1990s has reared its diseased head again but maize chlorotic mottle is “still in a fairly isolated geographical area,” said Pioneer Hi-Bred International Business and Community Outreach Manager Cindy Goldstein.

“We’re certainly carefully monitoring this,” she said, adding it is “not a concern for hobby farmers” or other agricultural practitioners.

Weather patterns in 2009 were similar to 1989, including a wet fall season, which would explain the “explosion of insects” that transmit the virus from one plant to another, said Kaua‘i Agricultural Research Center Associate Plant Pathologist Dr. Jeri Ooka.

Because there has been “exponential growth” in the seed industry since it first arrived on island in 1969, the virus has not had such detrimental effects as it did in the early 1990s when it was still a “small industry,” he said. Now, corn is a dominate player on the Westside.

Although the disease never really went away, it was controlled for 20 years, Ooka said.

While the virus will “often be present at low levels,” seed companies “will see a spike in the disease sometimes” such as last fall when signs of the virus first began appearing in crops, Goldstein said.
The disease typically infects only younger plants, stunting their growth and reducing the quality and quantity of kernels, she said.

This can lead to a production problem, Ooka said.

Syngenta Hawai‘i Outreach Manager Laurie Goodwin said the virus has not disturbed the company’s profit margins, even though it has been detrimental in some localized areas.

“It depends on how things play out,” she said regarding profitability.

Thus far, the virus has not been known to spread to other plant species, Goldstein said, but it can affect different varieties of corn crops, like sweet and field corn.

The virus is “not really transported by seeds,” especially after they are dried prior to being shipped to countries around the world, Ooka said. The lack of moisture makes them “less transmittable.”
However, the disease “probably got here via seeds being sent here,” he added.

To mitigate impact, seed companies have been “cooperating and collaborating” their efforts, Goldstein said.

“It’s not a huge problem,” Ooka said, but “we want to ensure the plant population is healthy.”
Infected plants are immediately removed, said Goldstein, adding that the virus is not known to live in soil or water. “If they even look like they have something,” the corn is quickly eradicated.

Syngenta has also “been really active in rouging out affected plants,” Goodwin said.

The “question that needs to be answered now” is “what is the alternate host and how is it able to survive?” Ooka said.

“There might be another host besides corn, but so far we haven’t found it in anything else yet,” he said. Once another host is pinpointed, the virus may be brought back down to a “very low undetectable level.”

“We cannot figure out where this thing is hiding,” he said.

The good news is “people don’t get plant viruses,” Goldstein said.

“It’s not a people problem, it’s a plant problem,” Ooka said.


1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Here is what I know in a nut shell.

First I heard there was a virus, the fields were shutting down, people were being laid off.

I confirmed this information with people who worked in the fields.

I paid a visit to Pioneer, I was told that virus are normal, no big deal.

Next, phone tag for a few days after my visit to Syngenta. Laurie Goodwin told be that the bugs were the issue, they sprayed the fields as well as used the lace wings insects to eat the bad bugs.

Next I was told that workers in the fields had to wear full body suits to work in the fields as well as wash the trucks when finished. I took a drive the next day but saw nothing, it was Good Friday.

I was wondering why they think this is a wet year.

I thought this was an interesting comment. "“We cannot figure out where this thing is hiding,” he said.

Diana Labedz

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