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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Hilo, Hawaii » Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center » Tropical Plant Genetic Resources and Disease Research » People » Lisa M. Keith

Lisa Keith

Research Plant Pathologist

Contact Information

Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center
64 Nowelo St.
Hilo, Hawaii 96720
Ph: (808) 959-4357
Fax: (808) 959-5470



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Research Projects

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News Articles

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Research Positions



My current research focusses on the biology, detection, and management of invasive pathogens causing disease on crops grown under tropical and sub-tropical conditions. Attempts are made to integrate laboratory, greenhouse and field-based research to develop and deliver practical disease management approaches that can be adopted by growers. My main goal is to help solve real-world problems in an environmentally sound and economically viable way.

When I’m not in the lab, I love spending time with my husband (Ronald) and daughter (Abigail). I also love to run, paddle outrigger canoe and eat pizza.


Research Accomplishments

Macadamia Quick Decline (MQD)

MQD threatened commercial and residential production of macadamia in Hawaii. In the 1990s, MQD cost Mauna Loa approximately 25,000 trees over the course of a five-year period. Research explained the etiology of MQD, identified key diagnostic indicators, developed an innovative fungicide delivery method to control the disease, and thus, solved a long-standing recalcitrant problem. Today MQD is managed using these techniques. The trunk injection control method has broader implication for other root or trunk problems in macadamia and fruit/nut trees.


Scabby Canker of Guava

Guava, commercially important in at least 58 countries world-wide, has been plagued by scabby canker in Hawaii since the early 1940s. A multi-pronged evaluation system to elucidate the etiology and identify resistance to scabby canker of guava was developed. Innovative field and laboratory bioassays (disease surveys, microbiology and molecular techniques) were combined to identify four Pestalotiopsis species as major fungal pathogens of guava in Hawaii and identified potential sources of resistance in guava germplasm. This research has impacted international guava production through accurate disease identification, improved management strategies and screening protocols for germplasm resistance. Results from this research has helped to reclassify clavo disease in Mexico and techniques developed are currently being used at INIFAP.


Bacterial Diseases of Orchids

Biotic stresses adversely affect quality and production of orchids. Orchids, a high value crop in Hawaii currently valued at $14.2M/year, have proven to be especially susceptible to bacterial pathogens. The importance of Burkholderia gladioli and Erwinia chrysanthemi as pathogens on orchids in Hawaii and emerging weaknesses in current management strategies were demonstrated. The development of innovative identification and management strategies have enabled growers to better recognize disease symptoms and provide more appropriate control measures to reduce crop losses. Key information about the etiology, biology and management of these diseases have resulted in reduced losses due to changes in grower practices resulting in strengthened farm profitability.


Re-directed agricultural waste streams

(collaboration with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Agribusiness Development Corporation and the University of Hawaii at Hilo)

Hawaii imports over 85% of its food, and depends on imported petroleum to meet 89% of its energy needs. Innovative approaches established novel methods to utilize heterotrophic algae to convert waste material (unmarketable papaya) to bio-oil for fuel and algae meal for animal feed. The project is currently being scaled up to pre-pilot plant volumes. The zero-waste model system utilizing algae and culled papaya will lead to reductions in fuel or feed costs, an increase in food production or value, and an increase in farm profitability and sustainability. Farmer, agriculture, and statewide benefits include providing additional revenue streams for farmers to sell off-grade or overripe fruit, a secondary market during high supply/low demand periods, additional diversification for biofuel, and the potential for locally developed feed production.


Rapid Ohia Death: Ceratocystis species killing Metrosideros polymorpha in Hawaii

(collaboration with the USDA Forest Service, the University of Hawaii, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Cooperative Extension Service, and others)

Ohia (Metrosideros polymorpha) is Hawaii’s most common and widespread native tree, occurring from sea level to 2500 m elevation in both dry and wet forests. It is the most ecologically important native Hawaiian tree, defining native forest succession and ecosystem function over broad areas, providing critical habitat for rare and endangered native bird and insect species, and exemplifying the strong links between native Hawaiian culture and the islands’ environment. Two newly discovered exotic species of the fungus Ceratocystis are causing disease in ohia on Hawaii Island. The disease is commonly known as Rapid Ohia Death (ROD) due to the amount of time it takes for the tree to die once symptoms are visible. A diagnostic qPCR assay for Ceratocystis affecting ohia was developed, which decreased the detection time of the pathogens from 2 to 4 weeks to less than 24 hours.


Service, Leadership and Participation in Professional Activities


Honors, Awards, Achievements and Recognition