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Essential Oils Could Help Protect Organic Fruits Crops

While plant disease is difficult to control in organic fruits, researchers at the University of Hawaii are studying essential oils to see if they might provide a solution.

Finding ways to improve feasibility and long-term profitability of organic fruit production is the basis of a nearly $2 million Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to a team of 15.

The team includes Associate Extension Agent Andrea Kawabata of the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources’ Cooperative Extension in Kailua-Kona.

The project is called, “Plant Safety, Horticultural Benefits, and Disease Efficacy of Essential Oils for Use in Organically Grown Fruit Crops: From the Farm to the Consumer.”

“The idea to research essential oils as a fungicide came about because there are very few fungicides that apply to tropical food crops or anything organically grown,” said plant pathologist Lisa Keith, who works for the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Hilo. “There has been some lab research, but there hasn’t been much field research.”