A Savoyard Saves the Coconut Palms

Symbol of Hawaii, the coconut palm is threatened with extinction. Philippe Visintainer drew up a solution to plug the epidemic on archipelago.

By: Sabine Bouvet. Photo by: Michele Maldini. Translated by: Kendall Burden. Mon Jardin & ma maison

Mon Jardin & ma maison article pictures. Philippe and coconut palms.

We already knew the lifeguards, who are ready to leap to save the surfers from the raging Pacific, but who would have imagined a French man from Courchevel would one day help the coconut palms of Hawaii that are threatened by extinction? Philippe Visintainer has been living on Maui, on the archipelago of Hawaii for the past fifteen years. Over the years, this nutcase of tropical vegetation has observed on his own ground of coconut trees that one by one they are contaminated: their heart rots and the palms fall. Completely self-educated and driven by a passion and an energy without terminals, Philippe started with experiments on his own plantation and those of his neighbors, who put their sick trees in his hands. “They lost between five and ten palm trees per year. On various properties, I have created eight research centers, each one with about fifty trees under treatment” he explains. It is a fungus called Phytophthora katsurae that is responsible . It was identified in Japan on the chestnut and detected on Kauai, another island of archipelago, in the 1970’s. For his plan of attack, Philippe bases his treatment on the one of that of the avocado epidemic in California. He injects a combination of phosphorus and a supplement…But will say no more, the formula remaining secret.

To Treat and Inform:
Exceeded by magnitude of the disease, the department of agriculture of the State of Hawaii sees him as a savior. This is because each year nearly 30 insects and new diseases unload on archipelago. To fight the plague, Philippe created the company Hawaii Coconut Protectors on January 1, 2000. He was then granted a scholarship for research in close collaboration with the University of Hawaii. Their mission is to launch a public awareness campaign on archipelago in order to show that this disease touches all the palm trees, not only the coconuts which account for 75% of the Hawaii palms.

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