Diabec disease threat

Members of the Kava Taskforce visit a yaqona farm in Cakaudrove. Picture: SUPPLIED/FILE

LABORATORY tests are being carried out on young kava stems to protect the crop from the destructive diabec disease.

Headed by the Pacific Horticulture and Agricultural Market Access Program, the tests are being carried out at the University of the South Pacific.

The program’s deputy team leader Bronwyn Wiseman said the disease known as kava diabec had the potential to destroy an entire farm.

In an interview with this newspaper, Ms Wiseman said the kava industry had grown in the recent years and despite the high price, demand had increased.

“The issue about kava diabec was discussed a lot by the farmers and once it gets into the kava plants, the farmers need to pull it out and can’t sell the crops at all,” she said.

“The kava diabec weakens the plants and can affect a 20 acres yaqona farm.

“So how do we start with clean healthy plants and this will be a big challenge for farmers who want to move to large scale planting from small scale.”

Planting and selling yaqona is great, but Ms Wiseman said there were risks involved and the diabec disease was one of the risks. “It’s a risk involved so if farmers want to expand their yaqona farms and move to bigger scale, then testing kava plants, ensuring it is healthy is imperative,” she said.

“One of the big things is to start with healthy plants and have trials so we need to plant only healthy plants and we are looking at a modern approach of tissue culture.

“We are taking plants and growing them in test tubes in labs and by doing that, it cleans the plants and gets rid of diseases that are there.”

Ms Wiseman said kava diabec could cause major losses to farms that were affected.

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