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Embu coffee farmer 4X spraying costs in battle against berry borer

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After losing 12 tons from his one and a half acres of coffee last year to the coffee berry borer, Collins Kimanthi a farmer in Embu is now spraying his bushes two months earlier and buying four times costlier insecticides to tackle the pest threatening to run him out of the coffee business.

Coffee berry borer (CBB) is the most damaging insect pest of coffee worldwide. In Africa it causes yield losses as high as 96 per cent and pest management costs that add up to 1/10 of the total production costs.

“Before last year’s October/November harvest, I was losing at most 15per cent of my harvest to CBB. Then it exploded,” said Kimanthi, who is also a Coffee technologist at Neumann Kaffee Gruppe.

2023 was recorded as the warmest year since global records began in 1850 with September being the warmest year globally in eight decades. These rising temperatures are enabling the burrowing pest to cause damage in highland regions increasingly it previously could not survive in.

“This year I began spraying my bushes the moment the coffee berries showed around a month ago unlike last year when I waited until August. Currently, I am spraying general-use insecticides while saving up to shift to CBB-specific ones from next month,” he said.

One liter of insecticides made to combat Coffee Berry Borer specifically costs up to Sh10,000 a litre while general-purpose pesticides cost between Sh2,500 and 1500.

He takes advice from his local agronomist and agrovet for both of these.

The young farmer has also increased his field scouting, visiting his farm personally or having someone else inspect it every three days. “Once the berry lands on one of your bushes it is nearly impossible to stop it from ravaging the entire farm.”

After an attack by CBB, picking fallen coffee berries from your field, and removing immature, drying out-of-season berries from branches while pruning are the most impactful ways of reducing the pest. Old coffee berries are home to hundreds of berry borers and are also a source of their reproduction. They are recommended to be buried 46 centimeters deep into the soil or burnt.

During the harvesting season, it is important to supervise and emphasize the importance of efficient harvesting, removing all ripe and dropped fruit.

Read more:

37 year expert sets up 2 acre coffee farm as perfect retirement plan

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