Control of coffee berry borer and increase of coffee yields using Surround WP (kaolin)

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2011: $47,648.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Shawn Steiman
Coffea Consulting

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: coffee


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Pest Management: physical control, prevention
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    The coffee berry borer (CBB; Hypothenemus hampei), is currently the world's most destructive coffee pest. Female beetles bore into coffee seeds and cause damage both to yield and quality of the coffee. Poor control of the beetle can results in yield losses of 20-30%. With adequate control measures, this loss can be reduced to 5% or lower.

    The CBB recently arrived to the Kona region of Hawaii, and it is already severely negatively impacting farms and mill operators.

    Unfortunately, some control measures for the beetle are not currently legal in Hawaii. Pesticides that are used in South America are illegal in the U.S. Many other coffee-growing countries use a fungus (Beauveria bassiana) to help combat the CBB. However, the commercial formulation of this fungus is not legal in Hawaii, and it is not known if a special use permit will be released by the Department of Agriculture. While other control measures are permitted in Hawaii, their use alone is not likely to effectively control the beetle.

    Surround WP (a kaolin-based, organic-certified, sprayable product) may be an effective control measure for the CBB. While Surround WP has been effective for controlling many other insect species on a myriad of crops, recent laboratory research in Costa Rica suggests Surround WP may be very effective at protecting coffee from the CBB. In addition, field research in Hawaii has demonstrated that Surround WP can double yields of coffee after two years of application.

    Surround WP may be an effective CBB control measure for several reasons. The white coloring of the cherries may confuse the beetle and cause it to not recognize the cherries. The kaolin may affect the taste of the cherries and cause the beetle to not recognize the cherries. The powder may absorb the volatiles that attract the beetle, thus making the cherries less attractive. Finally, the fine, rough particles may cut the beetle as it crawls on the cherries, resulting in dehydration and death.

    The mechanism by which Surround WP increased coffee yields is not known. The two hypothesis posited by the researchers were:

    1) increased floral production in the inner canopy as a result of the increase of light reflected off the kaolin-covered leaves,

    2) because the kaolin reduces heat and light stress, the plant is able to store carbohydrates during the first season of application. The following season, the carbohydrates are used to produce flowers.

    This project aims to explore the use of Surround WP to control CBB and to double yields of coffee. Approximately two months after flowering, applications of Surround WP will begin on five participating coffee farms in the Kona region of Hawaii. Each farm will have two experimental treatments: a control and a Surround WP treatment. Surround WP will be sprayed on the coffee at a rate of 50 g/l every two weeks to cover the coffee cherries. On each farm, there will be three replications of each treatment. Each experimental unit will consist of eight coffee trees, with two trees serving as border trees.

    To measure the effectiveness of Surround WP on the CBB, 100 randomly selected coffee cherries will be harvested from each experimental unit once a month. These cherries will be inspected visually for characteristic holes made by the CBB and tallied. The cherries will then be pulped and inspected again to determine how many seeds were infested by beetles. The data will then be analyzed using univariate statistics.

    To measure the effectiveness of Surround WP on increasing coffee yields, all ripe cherries will be harvested from each experimental unit every four weeks and weighed. The weights will be tallied at the end of the season and compared using univariate statistics.

    At the end of each season, workshops will be held in Kona to educate farmers about the experiment and its results. Upon completion of the experiment, the results will be discussed at a local coffee conference and to coffee farmer groups upon request. If the results are encouraging for the use of the product, we will work with the University of Hawaii's extension service to create an informational sheet for farmers. Also, we will publish the results in a peer-reviewed entomology or horticultural journal.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives of this project are to:

    1) measure the effectiveness of Surround WP as a control measure for the coffee berry borer,

    2) test on working farms if Surround WP can increase coffee yields, and

    3) share the information with as many coffee farmers in Hawaii as possible.

    The project will begin in April 2011, about two months after the first flowering. Cooperators will be given a survey to assess their feelings about the pest and yields of their farms. Plant spraying will begin here and continue through the end of the coffee harvest, probably in December. The cooperators will be asked to retake the survey.

    Objective 1 will be realized for the first season after all the data is collected and analyzed in January 2012. Spraying will recommence in April 2012 and the second year's data from objecive 1 will be analyzed in January 2013.

    Objective 2 will be realized in January 2013, after the experiment has finished.

    Objective 3 will be completed by the middle of 2013, but it will be addressed throughout the life of the experiment.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.