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Controlling the coffee berry borer
29 February 2012

Broca / CBB:  Kona coffee infected with the coffee berry borer.
Broca.  That's a dirty word on a Kona coffee farm.  I've written about Coffee Berry Borer (i.e. Broca or CBB) several times before.  It has probably been here in Kona for many years now but has only recently reached critical infestation levels.  Kona coffee farmers that don't deal with it will go out of business, plain and simple.  The good news is that other countries have been dealing with this pest for decades and they still manage to grow plenty of coffee.  If they can do it, so can we.

When the CBB first became a big deal here in Kona it took awhile for everyone to figure things out.  There were meetings, workshop and plenty of rumors about how to deal with this pest.  Most of the counter-productive rumors have been squelched and now there is a fairly strong consensus about effective CBB management.

Really, the answer is simple:  manual removal.  Pick the infested beans and manually remove them from the field.  In addition to regular harvesting, it is necessary to do an end of season picking where all beans, green to raisin, are completely removed.  It is not at all easy or cheap but it really is that simple.  Leaving infested beans in the field will guarantee more bugs while removing infested beans will keep the population down to manageable numbers.

In addition to manual removal, there are a few other things that help such as spraying the B. Bassiana fungus.  There are also traps that don't reduce the population much but can show where the trouble areas are.  Worker education, mill sanitation and proper disposal are also important.  Really though, those are all minor compared to manual removal of infested beans.  Like cleaning your kitchen, you can spray all the Lysol® you want but if you don't put away the food and clean up the mess then you will continue to have bugs.

Watch this excellent video about
Controlling the Coffee Berry Borer
An educational video has been produced that explains how to deal with the coffee berry borer.  I was not directly involved with the production of this video but when I watched it for the first time, I was very pleased at the excellent quality.  I think the video does a fantastic job of covering the relevant information in a clear and concise manner.  It is less than 10 minutes long so it's easy to watch it all.  As far as I'm concerned, anybody that grows Kona coffee, whether an experienced full-time farmer or simple a homeowner with a single tree in their backyard, should be required to watch this video.  There's even a Spanish version.  Heck, even if you don't grow Kona coffee it's still an interesting video because it gives a good sense of what Kona coffee farming is like.  Kudos to everyone that helped produce this video.

On a slightly frustrating note, some government bureaucrats with the pesticide enforcement office have complained about the video because it does not show proper protective equipment.  The "pesticide" being sprayed is a natural fungus.  That doesn't matter though, the enforcement officers want farmers to dress up like astronauts or nuclear waste hazmat crews.  It's the kind of thing that only makes sense to someone that sits behind a desk all day, someone who has never actually tried wearing the "proper" protective equipment and working in the tropical heat on a steep, rocky coffee farm all day.

I'm not saying that farmers should ignore safety, I'm just saying that sometimes it is important to keep the bigger picture in mind.  Life is full of risk and there are always trade-offs.  Personally, with this particular product, I am more than willing to accept the risk, if any, in exchange for better management of this potentially devastating pest.  If the pesticide enforcement office wants to pay to redo the video then great, otherwise they need to shut up and let this vital information get out to the farmers.


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