Associate Dean Kelvin Sewake and Dr. Scot Nelson tell
the story of anthurium blight in Hawai‘i.
the anthurium has become one of Hawai‘i’s most iconic flowers, it’s a relative newcomer.
The industry began in the Islands in the 1940s; in 1950, researcher Haruyuki
Kamemoto initiated anthurium research at what would become CTAHR with a
breeding program for the commercial development and release of cultivars to
growers. Over the next three decades, the industry gained momentum, supplying
local, national, and international markets with 30 million flowers in 1980.
Anthurium blight and the subsequent rise of cheaper overseas producers cut into
Hawai‘i’s market share, but CTAHR’s breeding program, which releases new
varieties only to local growers; research into ways to curb the blight; and
Extension work in teaching techniques to growers are keeping the exports of
this dramatic flower strong.
Dr. Teresita Amore and graduate student Peter Toves
hold beautiful and blight-resistant ‘Kaua‘i’ and ‘Maui’ anthuriums.
Teresita Amore, of the department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences,
tradition of anthurium research and breeding. Two new varieties were released
in 2015, the culmination of a traditional breeding process that may take 15
years or more. Anthurium ‘Kauai’ is a pale green variety named in honor of Kaua‘i,
the Garden Isle, known for its lush green vegetation and verdant cliffs. ‘Maui’
is a dark red “obake,” or green-edged, variety. The vibrant red flower, named
as a tribute to the island, also evokes the image of the demi-god Maui as the
catcher of the sun. Both are bred to be tolerant to bacterial blight.
breeding is important, but non-resistant varieties can be grown successfully, with
care. Interim Associate Dean for Extension Kelvin Sewake, who began working
with the anthurium industry at the height of the blight epidemic, recalls the
devastation wrought by the disease in fields and on livelihoods. Field
sanitation to contain the pest is probably the single most effective technique,
he explains, one which he taught out in the fields, grower by grower, and with
a revolutionary video first shown in 1990. The history of the fight against the
blight is described in a new website created by Scot Nelson, a specialist in
the department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, which explains
the disease and traces its history in Hawai‘I and the college’s responses to
it. The story, Dr. Nelson says, is one of the triumphs of Extension in the
Islands: from large-scale devastation, today’s fields are almost entirely
Anthurium Blight: Pathogen, Symptoms and Management