Jamaica Fighting Coffee Pests
Jul. 11, 1999
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) _ Jamaica's coffee growers, bedeviled by a beetle costing the industry famed for its rich Blue Mountain beans some $3 million a year, are bringing out the big guns.
For more than 20 years farmers have been battling the coffee berry borer with pesticides that barely touched the borer, instead slaying harmless cousins like the lady bird beetle and causing other environmental damage.
Now Jamaica will use stingless wasps from Honduras and a particularly ferocious fungus _ methods used effectively for decades in Central and South America.
``It's a technological leap for the Coffee Industry Board and for Jamaica,'' said Alford Williams, the board's extension manager.
On May 30, two experts from the Central American and Caribbean Coffee Research Organization arrived in Jamaica with 5,000 of the wasps. They started breeding the parasites at the Caribbean Agricultural Research Development Institute and at the University of the West Indies' Mona campus.
By September or October there should be enough wasps _ cephalonomia stephanoderis and prorops nasuta _ to release in four of the worst-hit areas, Williams said.
Brazil was the first _ in 1927 _ to start using wasps to control the berry borer.
In addition, Jamaica will try to take advantage of research showing that the borer beetles have a high mortality rate in areas where there is a native fungus called beavaria bassiana.
Following the example of Colombia, scientists will develop the strongest possible strain of the fungus and spray it on coffee plantations.
The Coffee Industry Board estimates that, in recent years, the pests have been destroying 10 percent of the prized Blue Mountain coffee crop and 15 percent of lowland coffee crop. But if the infestation isn't quickly controlled, the board said, it fears that 40 percent of saleable coffee will be lost each year.