KOCHI: Coffee Board has achieved a breakthrough in its research to combat white stem borer attack, which has become the single largest threat to the survival of arabica coffee cultivation in India.

Management of this devastating pest has been increasingly difficult due to the vagaries of Nature and shortage of skilled work force. It has threatened to bring down arabica crop to 65,000 tonne this year.Among the various control measures currently available, pheromone technology is the latest one which can be adopted easily. The Central Coffee Research Institute (CCRI) has been working on the refinement of the pheromone technology and had identified the existence of female sex pheromones and some attractants known as kairomones, within the plant itself. Kairomones are the chemicals released by host plants that attract the pests towards them.

Earlier, Coffee Board through a tie up with Bio Control Research Laboratories (BCRL) succeeded on the production of the male pheromone compound. The Board is now providing traps baited with this pheromone at 50% subsidised rates to the coffee growers. The traps help the growers to monitor the borer emergence and assess the spread of the flight season which are crucial to initiate the control measures.

Coffee Board had launched a collaborative research programme with BCRL in 2012 to identify the role of female sex pheromones and kairomones in mating and infesta tion process.

The studies conducted by BCRL scientists revealed the existence a female sex pheromone compound. A plant volatile from attacked plants, which attracted the stem borer, was also identified.
Preliminary field studies using combinations of these two in traps attracted maximum beetles when compared to the male pheromone alone.

These findings offer scope for improving the pheromone technology, which could form the basis for a breakthrough in eco-friendly stem borer management. Further field trials to arrive at the optimal and cost effective combinations are under way, according to an official statement from Coffee Board.