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Hawaii's Banana Growers Can Now Target New Markets

By Marcia Wood
September 24, 1999

Hawaii's banana growers may have a better chance to capture mainland and overseas markets, thanks to experiments led by scientists at the Agricultural Research Service.

The tests demonstrated conditions for safely shipping island-grown bananas without need for treatments to ensure the fruit is free of Mediterranean fruit flies and oriental fruit flies.

The research is a boon for growers and consumers alike. That's because the previous disinfestation treatment, which relied on a now-banned chemical--ethylene dibromide-- added to costs, and could hasten spoilage of the fruit.

Fruit leaving Hawaii for the U.S. mainland must be free of any hitchhiking Mediterranean or oriental fruit flies. Because the pests can attack more than 200 different fruits and vegetables, they are constant threats to mainland agriculture.

In laboratory and outdoor experiments, the researchers used thousands of freshly harvested bananas from more than a dozen plantations on the five major Hawaiian islands. ARS entomologist John W. Armstrong and colleagues showed that the bananas won't harbor these fruit flies if the fruit is shipped full size, green skinned and without cuts or punctures.

The scientists' efforts led USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in 1998 to approve new, workable regulations for shipping the bananas without disinfestation treatments.

Armstrong and co-workers did the research at ARS' U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii, in collaboration with the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service and the Hawaii Banana Industry Association. They used three kinds of the familiar Cavendish banana and the specialty "Hawaiian apple banana," which has a sweet, custardlike flavor.

An article in the September issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine tells more. Read it on the World Wide Web at:


In 1998, Hawaii growers produced about 21 million pounds of bananas, worth about $7 million.

ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: John W. Armstrong, ARS U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, Hilo, Hawaii, phone (808) 959-4336, fax (808) 959-4323,

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