Ginger. Ginger root (Zingiber officinale Roscoe, ‘awapuhi Pākē) ranked #20 among Hawai‘i’s agricultural commodities in 2009 with a sales value of US $2.24 million (Statistics of Hawai‘i Agriculture, 2009) from only 20.2 harvested ha (50 acres) that yielded 14.7 metric tons per ha (32,500 lbs. per acre). However, the sales value for fresh ginger declined from $3.0 million in 2005-2006, with a concomitant decline in acreage devoted to this important crop.
Globally, chefs include ginger rhizomes as a spice or fresh ingredient in recipes. Consumers also enjoy a variety of other value-added products with ginger as a component, including beverages (e.g., ginger ale), hard and soft candies, ice creams, liqueurs, bakery products, curry powders, bottled sauces, and pickled condiments. Traditional medicines also use ginger to treat a variety of conditions such as nausea, headaches, dyspepsia, flatulence, and colic.
Below: Planting ginger on the Big Island and the resultant crop
Bacterial wilt. One important reason for the decline in acreage and sales in Hawai‘i since 2006 was a devastating, soil-borne plant disease known as bacterial wilt caused by the plant-pathogenic bacterium, Ralstonia solanacearum Race 4. Infested farms cannot be re-planted successfully and disease epidemics cause major crop losses that discourage farmers from growing edible ginger on infested lands on the island of Hawai‘i.
Ginger growers in Hawai‘i are forced to farm nomadically, searching periodically for disease-free fields or lands not previously cultivated with ginger. Clean (pathogen-free) ginger seed can be scarce and difficult to procure, preventing new farmers from getting started. Pathogen-contaminated shoes or tools cause growers to quarantine their fields and not allow visitors or traffic to enter. Bacterial wilt disease onset and progression can be rapid and severe, causing great crop loss in a short time.
A young ginger crop in Hawaii with initial symptoms of bacterial wilt