State wants to bring in fungus to control coffee pest

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is proposing to make it easier to import a fungus used to control a type of beetle that is a major threat to Kona’s coffee bean farms.

The Department of Agriculture said in a news release yesterday the proposal seeks to remove the fungus from the list of restricted microorganisms.

Agriculture officials in February approved using pesticides that contain the fungus only with a permit. The department is proposing to remove the permit requirement but the pesticide would still need to be registered with the state.

The fungus is contained in pesticides Kona coffee farms use to control an infestation of small beetles known as Coffee Berry Borers. The beetle has destroyed 60 to 70 percent of coffee crops at some farms.

State wants to bring in fungus to control coffee pest – Hawaii News –

Lack of rain, invasive pest take toll

by Carolyn Lucas-Zenk
Stephens Media

A destructive insect and two-year drought didn’t affect the quality of Kona coffee, but did cut yield during the 2010-11 season.

Bruce Corker, Kona Coffee Farmers Association board member, said the size of his coffee crop at his 3.8 acre farm, Rancho Aloha in Holualoa, fell approximately 25 percent due to the drought, considered the most intense in Hawaii since the 1999 inception of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Colehour Bondera, association president, agreed. While the coffee borer beetle and the drought probably reduced the coffee crop, Bondera did not think they caused “ridiculously horrible, dramatic variations.”
Bondera suspects dry conditions did the most harm to farms at lower elevations and farther south, where the drought was stronger and longer. On the other hand, less water helped Bondera’s Kanalani Ohana Farm produce better beans. He said his Honaunau farm had “the best yield ever in 10 years,” and he was not alone in this trend.

Bondera also knows the beetle has proved disastrous for other Kona coffee farmers like Jason Sitith, who reported losing as much as 75 to 80 percent of his usual crop. But what “disturbs” Bondera the most is the coffee prices.

Berry borer backlash

by Carolyn Lucas-Zenk

An immediate suspension of green coffee imports into Hawaii to prevent further damage by the coffee berry borer is being sought by the Kona Coffee Farmers Association.

Hawaii Department of Agriculture officials also are preparing a quarantine on green coffee bean transportation from Kona, where the pest was confirmed at 21 sites between Kaloko and Manuka State Park, said Neil Reimer, Hawaii Plant Pest Control Branch chief.

The Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals may consider the quarantine request at a meeting later this month. However, the seven-member committee was struggling to establish a quorum and Lyle Wong, Plant Industry Division administrator, is in China, Reimer said.

If the pest is deemed an “immediate emergency” and the committee passes the recommendation, it will go before the Board of Agriculture for approval and implementation. The 10-member board usually meets the last Tuesday of the month in Honolulu, Reimer said.

A search Wednesday of the Department of Agriculture’s online calendars showed no meetings scheduled in November and December for the Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals or the Board of Agriculture.