Fighting Coffee Berry Borer in Kona Hawaii

Fighting Coffee Berry Borer in Kona Hawaii

Fighting Coffee Berry Borer in Kona Hawaii

coffee berry borer in bean

The Challenge

In 2010, a coffee grower in South Kona, Hawaii discovered an unknown pest and brought it to Elise Burbano Greco, a University of Hawaii researcher, for identification. By the time it could be confirmed that the bug was the coffee berry borer, Kona coffee growers had sustained heavy losses; some up to 50% of their crop. The local growers and ag professionals had heard of the insect-pathogenic fungus, Beauveria bassiana (formulated a Botanigard, Mycotrol O) that was being used in Columbia and it was licensed for use in February 2011 by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture through an emergency ruling. At the time it cost $200/gallon.

The coffee berry borer (CBB) causes extensive destruction on the coffee seed, reducing yields and quality of coffee, and thus, resulting in reducing the income of coffee growers and the sustainability of coffee producing areas. Since the coffee berry borer had only recently invaded Hawaii, management techniques were limited. The information about Botanigard® applications had been produced outside of Hawaii, so the frequency of application and timing of first applications were being made arbitrarily. Burbano Greco and a team of farmer participants created a Western SARE Professional + Producer project, “Effectiveness of Beauveria Bassiana on Coffee Berry Borer in Different Agroclimatic Zones” to achieve a greater understanding of the effect of B. bassiana on the coffee berry borer, with special reference to timing of applications and the effects of local environmental conditions on the effectiveness of the product. 

Searching for a Solution

The effectiveness of Botanigard® was studied at three commercial coffee farms located at different altitudes on the island of Hawaii. The objectives addressed by this project were: 

  • determine the effectiveness of three rates of Botanigard® as a control measure for the CBB at different agroclimatic zones in Kona,
  • determine the effectiveness of Botanigard® upon the position of the CBB female in the coffee berry, and
  • disseminate and publish the results of this study.

Treatments were applied approximately two months after flowering, at a time where coffee berry borer was observed initially attacking the coffee berries, and several times through the study. Samples were taken to assess the level of CBB infestation and presence of B. bassiana.

What was Learned

Burbano Greco states “The overall mean percentage CBB mortality with five applications of Botanigard® in four months was 49.22%.” She goes on to say “the results indicate that B. bassiana occurs naturally in the field, but applications of the commercial fungus should be sprayed early at the fruit development cycle and at the early stages of CBB attack to increase beetle mortality.” However, monitoring, frequent harvest, removal, and destruction of berries after the harvest season need to be combined in an integrated management program.

Post-Project Impacts

A hurdle to overcome at the beginning of the project, says Dave Bateman, a farmer participant was a lack of trust from many coffee growers on the effectiveness of Botanigard®. Some of the farmers wanted to use a more toxic approach. However, by using the less toxic approach, farmers get a higher value for their product as Japan and other export markets do not want coffee beans with residues. The Western SARE funded project leveraged state task force grants. With the positive research results and dedicated funding, participation in the Botanigard® application program is now greater than 50% of the Kona coffee farms. Due to the increase of farmers using Botanigard®, the cost of Botanigard® has decreased to $50/gallon from $200/gallon back in 2012, according to Bateman. Losses due to CBB have dropped to 7-10% on Bateman’s farm since following a strict protocol. Given the importance of the coffee farms (many of them long-time, small acre, family farms) to the Kona economy, the substantial decrease in yield losses cannot be easily dismissed. The project “saved the industry” according to Bateman.

There continues to be research needs on how weather impacts spraying, CBB movement and migration, and reproduction cycles.

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) OW12-041, Effectiveness of Beauveria Bassiana on Coffee Berry Borer in Different Agroclimatic Zones .

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Location: Hawaii | West
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Sustainable Ag in the Pacific Islands

Download the report to read highlights of funded projects in Guam, Micronesia, the Northern Marianas Islands, and American Samoa, such as combating plant disease in key crops, building direct links between farmers and chefs, and creating integrated vegetable and livestock systems.