Pests and illnesses may wreak havoc on your coffee harvest and a poorly managed infestation might result in financial hardship or even disaster. Find out which pests and illnesses are the most dangerous for your coffee plants, how to spot them and how to treat the problem.
The coffee plant, like any other crop, is susceptible to pests and illnesses. “Most coffee infections are caused by pathogenic fungus, and less commonly by bacteria and viruses,” according to a 2012 paper by Fabienne Ribeyre, a researcher at the French agricultural research institute CIRAD.
“Root rot disease, rusts and coffee berry disease can attack healthy trees without any particular physiological weakness, whereas most of the other diseases of economic importance only occur in trees that are physiologically weakened,” it says.
Pests and illnesses are influenced by the following variables, according to Adriana Villanueva, a Colombian coffee exporter and co-founder of Inconexus:
Coffee is grown in a variety of places, and pests and illnesses can be found in every location. However, depending on the environment, different pests and illnesses exist. The coffee borer insect, for example, thrives in humid environments.
As a result, Arabica produced at lower elevations is more susceptible to coffee berry borer due to the relative warmth and humidity. Even though the season is scorching hot and dry, the insects may lurk in the cherry until the first rains, when they swarm and cause havoc.
Some disorders, on the other hand, are nearly ubiquitous. Coffee leaf rust is a fungus that has become one of the most serious dangers to the global coffee industry. Regardless of local environmental circumstances, it can be found in practically any coffee-producing country.
Finances of the planter
Pests and illnesses are more likely to affect producers who do not earn enough money to invest in their crops. This has the potential to become self-perpetuating. If a farmer cannot afford fertiliser, fresh plants or pesticides, pests and illnesses may be more prevalent, resulting in a low output. As a result, they may not be able to invest in the following year’s crops, and the cycle repeats.
Pests to keep an eye out for:
Coffee leaf miner
Leucoptera coffeella, which is found in Latin America, and Leucoptera caffeina, which is found in African coffee-producing regions, are two similar species of moth.
They have an effect on the coffee plant’s leaves. Coffee leaf miner larvae devour coffee leaves, according to Café de Colombia. If numerous live on the same leaf, the necrosis of up to 90% of the leaf’s structure may occur. The loss of cells causes necrosis, which manifests as dark wet areas or brown papery patches.
The capacity of the plant to photosynthesise is hampered by defoliation. The plant cannot develop correctly without photosynthesis. Fruit may not develop, resulting in a substantially reduced overall yield. Bitterness and astringency can be produced if immature or dead beans make it into the final brew.
Coffee cherry borer
These small black beetles burrow within coffee cherries and may be found in practically every coffee-producing country. Because they are shielded by the cherries, they are extremely tough to control using pesticides.
As early as the 16th century, the insects moved across the world accompanying coffee harvests. According to Café de Colombia, this bug has caused the most damage to coffee in history.
Because juvenile bored cherries may fall prematurely and all harvested bored cherries are of inferior weight, yields are lowered in coffee borer beetle-affected crops.
Damage from the coffee berry borer also impairs the sensory properties of the coffee, lowering its commercial worth. If there is enough damage, the cup may taste sour, tarry or fermented. Berry borer damage can also result in uneven roasting, which has an affect on flavour.
Nematodes are parasitic worms that are tiny in size. Several species attack the root system of coffee plants and feed on the sap they produce. Knots in the roots caused by nematodes might impede the plant from effectively absorbing water and nutrients.
Reduced roots, defoliation and a general lack of health in the plants are all symptoms of infestation. Low yield and light beans are possible consequences.
Mealybugs are a kind of insect that feeds on a wide range of plants and trees. They target all sections of the coffee plant, including branches, nodes, leaves, roots and flower clusters.
They eat the coffee plant’s sap and produce a sticky material that attracts ants. This compound also causes a black mold to grow on the leaves, which can limit photosynthesis.
Coffee plants are stressed by reduced sap absorption, circulation and photosynthesis, and they yield light or immature beans as a result. This might leave the cup with astringency, a metallic flavor or bitterness.
Africa, Australia, Asia, and Central and South America have all been discovered to host coffee mealybugs.
Methods of disease prevention
Good farm management is the most effective strategy to prevent pests and illnesses. Plant nutrition, shade control and selective pesticide application are all critical factors to consider.
Farmers can use the following methods when disease is present in coffee plants:
Watch your crops closely
Maintaining disease and pest-free coffee plants requires constant monitoring. Pests and illnesses are monitored at the field level to help prevent big outbreaks and reduce pesticide use. Specific monitoring guidelines differ from nation to country.
Producers should keep track of blooming as well as fertilisation time and dose. Farmers should be utilising soil analysis to determine precise nutritional requirements and arranging fertiliser and visual monitoring on certain periods.
Farmers should also keep note of the amount of shade, rain and humidity. You may create an atmosphere that attracts pests and illnesses or one that helps keep them away by considering these elements.
If your crops are infested with pests or disease, pesticides may be the first thing that comes to mind. Chemical pesticides, on the other hand, can contaminate water, ruin the surrounding ecology and kill wildlife.
In certain situations, “usage of pesticides has reduced the numbers of natural enemies, leading to an increase in insect populations a few months following treatment,” according to Ribeyre’s research. The public is also aware of the dangers of chemical residues on human health. Pesticide-free practices are also vital for preventing resistance.
However, insecticides are occasionally required. “Judicial use of insecticides in a well-managed integrated pest control program will increase coffee quality,” according to the same research. So you don’t have to avoid them all at once. Instead, look into other ways where it can perform just as well or better.
The integrated pest management strategy used to handle coffee bean borers is an example of disease control without pesticides. This method makes use of predators and environmental management.
Wasps are produced and then released among coffee plantations, according to Café de Colombia. They devour the bugs that live within the cherry. To kill coffee bean borer infestations, a mildew is sprayed on the plants. According to the organization, this strategy has “allowed Colombia to maintain low levels of infection inside its coffee plantations in order to meet its productivity and quality export responsibilities”.
Traps are another way to deal with pests without using chemicals.
Coffee growers confront several obstacles. While many elements, such as climate change and global economy, are beyond your control, pests and illnesses may be addressed.