September 12, 2010 – Kona, Hawaii
Video by David Corrigan
On the heels of the troubling news that a potentially devastating invasive pest has been confirmed in the Kona coffee area, state legislators are scrambling to figure out the next move.
This week, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (DOA) announced that the coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei), has been found in several coffee farms in Kona.
Now, farmers and state officials are pondering steps to contain and control the pest, and the word “quarantine” is already being mentioned. In this video interview, Hilo’s State Representative and Chair of House Agriculture Committee Clift Tsuji discusses the matter from a legislative perspective.
The DOA says the coffee berry borer is a small beetle – about the size of a sesame seed – that is native to Central Africa and is also found in many coffee-growing regions of the world, including Central and South America. The beetle bores into the coffee cherry to lay its eggs. The larvae feed on the coffee bean, reducing the yield of the crop and the quality of the bean. Ag officials say that because the larvae are inside the bean, it makes it difficult to control by pesticides. The borer has been known to reduce crop output in other affected areas by up to 20%.
State officials say staff from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (UH-CTAHR), collected the beetles from several farms in Kona and dropped off samples to the DOA on September 2nd. The beetle was confirmed on September 8th by the U.S. Department of Agriculture entomology laboratory in Riverdale, MD.
An state-wide survey is being organized to determine the extent of the infestation. The early indication is that the beetle is established from Kainaliu to Honaunau on the Big Island. It is possible that the beetle has been present in Kona for over a year.
It is not yet known how the coffee berry borer was introduced to Hawaii. Officials say Hawaii has strict importation rules that require quarantine fumigation of all imported green coffee beans to rid the beans of pathogens and insect pests. Coffee plants and plant parts are also restricted from being imported to Hawaii under Plant Quarantine rules.
The DOA also offered these tips to combat the bug:
- Reduce heavy shade
- Prune coffee to keep the bush as open as possible to create a less humid environment for the beetle
- Picking should take place at least once a week in the main harvest season and once a month at other times to prevent over-ripe infested cherries falling to the ground where adult females can survive and attack out-of-season cherries.
- Cherries should be left on the ground as little as possible. Dropped cherries will provide a source for beetles to reinfest the next crop.
- All infested cherries should be destroyed by burning, deep burying or if possible rapid sun-drying.
- Before a main flowering the crop should be stripped completely.
The Department of Agriculture, Big Island Legislative Delegation, UH College of Tropical Agriculture, Kona coffee growers, and members of the Hawaii coffee industry will meet at the Captain
Cook Coffee Company in Kainaliu on Monday, September 13 at 2:00 p.m. to discuss the recent discovery.
NOTE: The meeting location has been changed to Kona Historical Society on 81-6551 Mamalahoa Highway