Berry Borer Damages Coffee Beans
Alarm is being expressed that Jamaica's billion dollar coffee industry could be in jeopardy due to the rapid spread of the berry borer pest which is wreaking havoc on the sector.
Word from the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) is that the rate of infestation has increased with the pest destroying several acres of coffee.
According to JAS President Senator Norman Grant the current coffee crop is at risk.
"The coffee berry borer infestation for the present crop is at an alarmingly high level. In previous crops berry borer infestation was between five and six per cent, in this crop we are seeing infestation in the region of 15 to 18 per cent and in some situations it is as high as 25 per cent," said Senator Grant.
He says the disease has spread to the Blue Mountain coffee crop and this has resulted in a delay in shipments:
"More than 30 to 40 per cent behind in terms of shipments. The repercussions of that is certainly that the quality could affect the overall out turn of the crop and have some implications as it relates to pricing," he said.
Senator Grant is calling for greater collaboration between farmers and marketing companies to ensure that the Berry Borer Control Programme is intensified ahead of the next crop.
At post time, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke could not be reached for a comment on whether any additional plans would be implemented to control the spread of the pest.
The adult coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei Ferrari [Coleoptera: Scolytidae]), a major insect pest of coffee, has two major digestive α-amylases that can be separated by isoelectric focusing. The α-amylase activity has a broad pH optimum between 4.0 and 7.0. Using pH indicators, the pH of the midgut was determined to be between 4.5 and 5.2. At pH 5.0, the coffee berry borer α-amylase activity is inhibited substantially (80%) by relatively low levels of the amylase inhibitor (αAI-1) from the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris L., and much less so by the amylase inhibitor from Amaranthus. We used an in-gel zymogram assay to demonstrate that seed extracts can be screened to find suitable inhibitors of amylases. The prospect of using the genes that encode these inhibitors to make coffee resistant to the coffee berry borer via genetic engineering is discussed.