Hawaiʻi sits at the crossroads of East and West, U.S. Mainland and Pacific Basin, with a climate prized by tourists – and invasive organisms. Accurate identification of a pest or disease is the first step in learning how to control and limit its spread. Diagnostic services are an essential line of defense in Hawai`i to prevent agricultural losses from pests and diseases.
During much of his 36 years at the Komohana Agriculture Research & Extension Center in Hilo, Brian Bushe has recovered and identified more than 50 insect pests and plant diseases, either for the first time in the State of Hawai`i or Hawai`i Island. But all good things come to an end, and Brian is retiring a day or two after you read this.
A few examples of Brian’s discoveries, environmental and economic impact over the years:
- Rough sweet potato weevil (Blosyrus asellus) on Hawaiʻi Island in 2014, which allowed researchers to conduct field trials on controlling this insect pest, a $7.3 million industry.
- First diagnosis of Rapid Ohia Death (ROD) caused by the fungus Ceratocystis. Tens of thousands of acres of ʻŌhiʻa forest have been devastated, with $10+ million in economic losses due to reduced watershed recharge, reduced wildlife habitat, and increased runoff.
- Anthracnose Black Nose in anthuriums, a $2.7 million industry in Hawaii.
- Banana Rust Thrips, a significant insect pest of bananas, a $6 million industry.
- Rhapis palm root rot, a disease of palms (that cannot be identified without diagnostic services), a $5.2 million industry.
- Spotted Winged Drosophila, a significant pest for fruits, a $13.3 million industry.
Besides these newly discovered insect pests and diseases, Brian provided an invaluable diagnostics services to growers, extension agents, and specialists across the islands for decades.
“It would be important not to make small of the impact of all the diagnoses that Brian has provided that were not ‘new’ pests,” says Randy Hamasaki, PEPS (retired). “It is so important to properly identify the causal agent. Why? Because making good pest management decisions depend upon an accurate identification of the causal agent.”
In his farewell message, Brian noted, “I believe we do excellent work here at CTAHR, and we have helped others live their lives. We’ve solved an endless number of problems, completed countless projects, and appreciated so many life-changing experiences. There have been everlasting friendships developed and together we did it all. I’m proud of what we have accomplished together, and I want to thank you all for letting me be a part of the team.”