White stem borer: arabica estates moving to robusta

PTI New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018

coffee   -  Business Line

Persisting attacks by the pest, white stem borer, has prompted 20 per cent of arabica estates to move to robusta in the past decade, a planters body has said.

“In the 2001-2010 period around 20 per cent of arabica coffee plantations have converted to robusta due to frequent attacks of WSB,” Karnataka Planters Association Chairman Mr Sahadeva Balakrishna told PTI.

White stem borer (WSB) is one of the most deadly pests that infect arabica coffee plantations in Asia and Africa. Its larvae bores into the plant’s stem causing death of young plants. The older plants may survive but their yield is drastically reduced and susceptibility to diseases increases.

The attacks of WSB is a major factor that has led to an almost stagnant output of the premium brew at 80,000-1,00,000 tonnes, he said.

Arabica is cultivated in 1.93 lakh hectares, while land under robusta plantations is 2.06 lakh hectares, Coffee Board data said.

According to Mr Balakrishna, during 2000-05, coffee growing areas in India faced repeated droughts, that led to an increase in WSB attacks, as the pest thrives under drought conditions.

It was followed by a crash in coffee prices in the global markets in 2003-04, that left little capital with planters to take adequate measures against the deadly pest, he pointed out.

“It was due to a combination of these factors that many planters started converting their plantations to robusta as WSB does not affect it,” he said.

The planters in their meeting with the Coffee Board for drawing proposals for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) have asked the central body to develop effective control measures to check WSB attacks, he said.

“The research is going on to develop better strains of arabica that is resistant to the WSB and we have requested the government for more funds to develop better seeds of arabica,” Coffee Board Vice Chairman Mr Jabir Asghar said.

The Central Coffee Research Institute (CCRI) for the past eight years has been involved in developing several techniques and extension services to check white stem borer attacks.

According to the scientists at CCRI, the arabica planters have not been able to effectively implement these techniques due to a lack of awareness.

“Now we have roped in experts who will be informed about these techniques and services that can be harnessed to check WSB attacks. They will then educate the arabica planters,” CCRI Director Research Mr Jayarama said.

The institute plans to take this vision mode approach to all the arabica planters across the country in one year, he added.

Published on June 26, 2011

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