Coffee Berry Borer Threatens Kona Coffee Crop

The Hawaiian coffee growers have appealed directly to a high placed native son for help as the coffee berry borer threatens the coffee crop in the islands. The Kona Coffee Farmers Association and the Hawaii Coffee Association have appealed to both President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack for more help in defeating an insect pest that has the potential to destroy the Hawaiian coffee crop. The beetle in question was first spotted in Hawaii in 2010 has multiplied into the billions. There are slightly more than 800, mostly small, coffee farms in the islands and they produce a crop valued at $35 million a year. Kona organic coffee is imperiled as well as the rest of the coffee crop.

Organic or Synthetic Approaches to Fighting a Beetle

Cotton farmers in the Southern United States learned to their dismay many years ago that spraying the heck out of the cotton crop to kill pests could backfire. The insecticide resistant cotton borer beetle destroyed crops because the farmers had removed its natural competitors. Although no one intentionally introduced the beetle into Hawaii the fact that regular coffee is often grown in crowded rows tends to encourage the spread of pests. Growing coffee and other crops out of their natural habitat also upsets the balance of nature. Shade grown organic coffee is grown where birds perch in the trees and are only too happy to help by snacking on insect pests. Let us hope that whatever solution the experts come up with relates to restoring the balance of nature and not adding one more insecticide to what can appear in our morning cup of coffee or kill the birds in the trees.

Trapping the Beetle

One of the approaches is to bait traps and catch the beetles as the coffee berry borer threatens the Kona coffee crop. This is an organic approach and for organic coffee production is preferable to spraying coffee plants with a fungicide which has been somewhat successful in reducing the prevalence of the pest in Latin America. Currently the coffee berry borer that threatens the Kona coffee crop is limited to the Big Island. Thus quarantine may help protect the crop on outlying islands of the Hawaiian chain. In the meantime we applaud the trappers and suggest a bounty on coffee berry borer beetles.

It Is a Smaller and Smaller World

The coffee berry borer that threatens the Kona coffee crop is not native to Hawaii. It got to the island somehow. Many want to restrict or ban the import of green coffee beans from elsewhere in the Hawaiian Islands.  Even if all green coffee imports are banned the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. A quarantine of the Big Island makes more sense along with methods of control based on sustainable agricultural practices. For example, Yellow Fever was not eliminated from Panama where it caused so many deaths by hunting down every mosquito. Rather it was by selectively applying a thin layer or oil to sources of standing water. This killed the eggs the mosquitoes and greatly reduced the need for spraying. Learning more about the beetle and the habitats it likes could well lead to smart and safe methods of protection as the coffee berry borer threatens the Kona coffee crop. After all, our preference is for safe organic coffee.

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