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Love: Be proactive about invasive plants

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By Ken Love

I was dismayed to read Barbara Fahs article “Understanding Biological Control” in the Oct. 26 issue of Big Island Weekly.

She mentioned the state Department of Agriculture (HDOA) entomologists have studied this control method for more than 15 years and they know with certainty it will slow the growth and spread if strawberry guava and that it will not feed on similar species such as ohia and guava.

Guava belongs to the Myrtaceae family, which includes the genus’s Psidium, Myrciaria, Syzygium, and Eugenia. You might know them better as jaboticaba, mountain apple, wax jambu, water apple, rose apple, surinam cherry, grumichama (brazil cherry) and a host of other edible fruit of great economic benefit to growers across our island and state.

I’ve asked many times over many years for proof that the biological control in question, T. ovatus, would not endanger or affect these other crops that are in the same family as strawberry guava.

I’ve also asked the entomologists from the HDOA and the USDA if they can state without a doubt that T. ovatus would not affect the other fruit. None would make this statement.

The only reply was “I’m sure it won’t be a problem.”

Sorry guys, if this is science then its very poor quality. Every fruit within the Myrtaceae family would have to be tested and examined.

You cannot take chances with the livelihood of many hundreds of small farmers in the state who harvest and sell these small fruit crops.

Until you can absolutely guarantee these growers that there will be no problems, then there should be no release of the biological control. You should be able to back that economically as well. Growers are tired of paying the price for dealing with fire ants, crab spiders and other introduced pests.

We, as growers, and as a community should never permit the introduction of other biological controls or invasive plants that can cause harm to small farm sustainability.

It’s time to be proactive in prevention of the introductions and not continually playing catch up once they are here.

(Editor’s Note: Ken Love is a specialist in tropical fruit horticulture and market development. He is president and executive director of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers. Contact Love at

One Response to “Love: Be proactive about invasive plants”

  1. vet2640 says:

    If you see it growing on your property, dig it up, etc., if it’s really tall and has a large girth, chop it up for making smoke meat. AFRICAN TULIP, now thats a huge problem, never mind the guava, African Tulip really sucks, no commercial value at all and can be a danger to commercial and residential property. If you don’t get it, you know, when the sucker topples over, it can crush your house or business, claim insurance?, that’s great, increase rates for everybody.


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