White stem borer menace a nightmare for growers

White stem borer menace a nightmare for coffee growers

White stem borers destroying a coffee plant. Credit: DH Photo

Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties grown in Kodagu are known for their quality.

Robusta variety is grown mostly in Madikeri and Virajpet taluks, while Somwarpet is known for arabica coffee.

The weather of Somwarpet is the best suited for the arabica variety, say the growers.

However, there are a lot of challenges before arabica coffee growers, the major one being the infestation of white stem borer (Xylotrechus quadripes).

The adult borers feed on the stem of the coffee plant and lay eggs inside the stem. Their season of reproduction is the months of March and April. During this period, the stem borers lay eggs on all plants in the coffee plantation.

In Somwarpet taluk, coffee is grown on 28,540 hectares of land. Arabica coffee is grown on 22,940 hectares and robusta is grown on 5,600 hectares.

Many growers have been switching to robusta as arabica is infested by the white stem borer.

Fed up by the borer menace, the plantation owners themselves have been asking the workers to uproot the arabica coffee plants that were nurtured for many years.

A lack of proper control measures is also one of the main reason for the growers to destroy the plants.

The arabica variety of coffee requires more care as compared to robusta. Meanwhile, the labour cost and the production costs are increasing, among other expenses towards manure and fertilisers.

Adding to the problem, the market rate is also disappointing the farmers.

Control measures

Experts have come up with a technique to trap female borer, by using the artificial pheromones of male borer insects, say authorities of the coffee board.

B R Jayendra, a coffee planter from Bettadalli, said that the control measure of white borer is consuming a lot of time, in the existing methods available.

By the time the borers are controlled, almost all plants are destroyed. Effective control measures are needed to save arabica coffee.

Taluk Coffee Growers' Association president Mohan Bopanna said that the coffee planters are going through difficult times.

Like the Kerala model, the Karnataka government too should announce support price for coffee growers. The loans of coffee growers who are facing difficulties should be waived, he added.

Another coffee planter S M D'Silva from Abburukatte said it is almost impossible to destroy the affected plants at a time.

The small grower will be hit hard if they destroy all coffee saplings in the plantation, he said.

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