Hawaii IR-4 Field Research Center

Exploring some IR-4 Tropical Similarities…

After attending the 2020 IR-4 National Education Conference (NEC) during last week of February held in San Diego CA, the IR-4 team from University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (UPRM), Dr. Wilfredo Robles and Luis E. Almodóvar traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii. The reason for this trip was to observe and compare IR-4 Tropical Research with the IR-4 team at the University of Hawaii (UH), Manoa, Julie Coughlin and James Kam in order to improve the IR-4 Field Research Center. The Hawaiian Islands are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean whereas Puerto Rico by the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. However, both sitting along latitudes 18 to 22 North make them an ideal location to grow tropical crops. Moreover, both IR-4 Centers belong to EPA Region 13 for conducting MRL field trials which means that field data collected is feasible and reliable for establishing pesticide tolerance and final registration for specialty crops. Ensuring the Puerto Rico IR-4 Field Research Center is aligned with EPA requirements for GLP trials, Luis and I started this trip visiting coffee farmers at Kona. This visit was very important as coffee rust has not been reported in Hawaii whereas Puerto Rico have been dealing with this disease for quite a long time. This means that experience gained in Puerto Rico for coffee rust management was shared with Hawaiian farmers. Coffee rust is the number one invasive pathogen concern for coffee growers in Hawaii. Since 2018, both Centers have been conducting field work with the fungicide mix Cyproconazole + Azoxystrobin, and it is expected that achieving registration of this product will be a new tool for coffee farmers to deal with this noxious disease. Moreover, new registered insecticides for the coffee berry borer like Cyantraniliprole as well as those still available like Bifenthrin will also benefit coffee industry for both islands.

While still in Kona, the IR-4 team had also the opportunity to visit Kona Research and Extension Center of UH where we discussed the potential problem posed by nematodes as a new pest impacting the coffee industry in Puerto Rico. This is something that needs our attention for coffee growers.

A funny fact: Luis and I touched and walked over cool lava rock for their first time!! There are no volcanoes in Puerto Rico so Pāhoehoe and ‘A’Ā is something we won’t forget.

Back in Oahu, Luis and I visited the Waimanalo Research Station and Poamoho Research Station to observe tropical crops such as banana, coffee, dragonfruit, lychee, papaya and pomegranate. Both research stations are used by the IR-4 team to conduct performance and MRL trials. As a curious fact, Hawaiian coffee is planted mostly in flat terrain using a 10-foot-tall variety “Typica” whereas Puertorrican coffee is planted in the mountainous region with more than 40% slopes using a 6 feet tall variety “Limani”. Moreover, “Typica” is susceptible to coffee rust whereas “Limani” is tolerant.

At UH, both teams met at the IR-4 Field Research Center to discuss similarities and differences between them. Going over Field Data Books and discussing logistics for conducting IR-4 trials in
islands far from Mainland US under a constantly changing tropical climate it is recognized that conducting field trials is always a challenge. For instance, when dealing with continuous
extreme weather events as well as hopping between islands carrying samples and research equipment you never know how the trial will be completed. This is not the ideal world; we deal with the real world that can not be changed. Therefore, it is important to share experience gained for helping each other on how to minimize weaknesses and push for strengthening our performance. Other discussion was mainly related to aligning priorities for pesticide registration on tropical crops at the upcoming Food Use Workshop and looking forward to keep bringing new alternatives for pest and disease management in tropical crops.

Other than volcanoes and language, Hawaii and Puerto Rico have similarities in terms of crops grown, great coffee quality, good food (e.g. Kalua pig vs. Lechón), beautiful beaches and welcoming people. Thanks Julie and James for being such great hosts for us.

Aloha Mahalo


Wilfredo & Luis