University of Hawaii researchers and the state Department of Agriculture are trying to determine if a virus discovered on the Big Island poses a new threat to coffee growers.
In January, a coffee grower in the Captain Cook area noticed tiny spots on six plants. After a site inspection by the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, it was determined the spots may have been caused by a type of emara-virus, which is spread by mites.
Plant pathologist Scot Nelson is trying to determine if the virus poses a threat to the Big Island's coffee industry, since the affected plants yielded small or deformed berries.
"We're not sure if that virus is actually causing the symptoms. It needs to be determined," said Nelson. "We think that because of this presence of the virus, we need to find out the distribution of this virus geographically in Hawaii. So, that's what we're trying to do now."
Nelson says the virus may be an entirely new species.
The state Department of Agriculture has scheduled a site visit next week to the Big Island to try and determine how extensive the problem might be.