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Updated: June 8, 2014 13:22 IST

Coffee growers worried as Arabica plantations hit by white stem borer

K. Jeevan Chinnappa
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Plantations in Chikmagalur, Kodagu and Hassan districts have been hit by white
stem borer.
Plantations in Chikmagalur, Kodagu and Hassan districts have been hit by white stem borer.

They are left with no option but to uproot the affected plants

Coffee growers in Chikmagalur, Kodagu and Hassan districts are a worried lot because Arabica plants have been hit by white stem borer (WSB). The growers have been left with no option but to uproot the affected plants.

Though the extent of the loss is yet to be quantified by the Coffee Board, the Karnataka Planters Association (KPA) or any other coffee organisation, about 30 to 50 severely affected plants are being uprooted from every acre of plantation in the worst-hit areas such as Somwarpet in Kodagu.

Association’s plea

The KPA has requested the Coffee Board to write to the State government to declare and notify the affected areas in the three districts as ‘White stem borer affected areas’.

According to D. Govindappa Jayaram, KPA chairman, the severity in the incidence is due to continuous dry weather from October 2013 to April 2014 and the subsequent high temperature (up to 38 degrees Celsius) in the summer during April–May.

Anil Savur, KPA secretary, told The Hindu that the ‘blossom rains’ were also delayed this season. This situation was conducive to the borer to be active to breed and spread, he said.

The incidence was severe in Chikmagalur, Mudigere and Tarikere taluks, and the Arabica growing areas in Hassan district. In Kodagu, the entire Somwarpet taluk, one of the largest Arabica growing areas, had been badly affected, Mr. Savur said.

More than 40 per cent of the plants were being uprooted and loads of WSB-affected stems transported to be used as firewood. Such severity in WSB incidence was not seen in the last 40 years, he said.

Switching to Robusta

B.D. Manjunath, a progressive grower from Somwarpet taluk, told The Hindu that in view of the rampant prevalence of WSB, most of the growers were uprooting the Arabica plants and switching over to the Robusta variety. But, Robusta plants get affected by berry borer pest. WSB was affecting both economy as well as ecology, Mr. Manjunath said. Unlike Arabica, Robusta plantations do not require shade (trees), so the growers resorted to felling trees. Also, irrigation was a must for Robusta plantations and growers who did not have tanks were sinking borewells, exploiting the groundwater table, he said.

The KPA has written to the Coffee Board chairman to conduct a survey of the affected areas.

But, sources in the office of the Deputy Director of Coffee Board in Madikeri said they had not received any instruction on survey from the board here.

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