Growing coffee without endosulfan

Endosulfan is used to control the coffee berry borer and is considered difficult to substitute. Because of its effects on human health and the environment, a new Code has called for its substitution with safer pest management strategies. Anna-Elisabeth Jansen provides information on the alternatives. 

Brocap® trap for capturing coffee berry borer. Photo: CIRAD

Originating from Africa, the distribution of the coffee berry borer (CBB) is now worldwide and is responsible for substantial production losses. Damage is caused by the female, which bores into the coffee berries, preferring older ones because the solid outer shell, or endosperm, is necessary for its development. There it lays about 30 to 50 eggs and stays with the brood; only females of the next generation leave the berries(1). Three main types of economic damage occur: 

All methods of control must try to manage the female adults before they enter the berry, or act within the endosperm, as the hidden life-style makes control rather difficult. 

Control measures
An important management practice in the control of CBB is the timely completion of the harvest followed by rigorous collection of remnant berries from tree and ground. The infested berries are then buried or boiled as each may contain as many as 100 adults(2). It has no health risk and is environmentally clean. However, it is a costly method, especially in countries with high wages. Farmers find chemical controls both cost efficient and effective in severe infestation situations, so it is these that are most readily adopted. The insecticides have to be applied before the CBBs enter the endosperm of the berries. Common active ingredients used are endosulfan, chlorpyrifos, fenitrothion and fenthion. Endosulfan is the most used and effective as its vapour effect causes some mortality to borers already in the endosperm(1). 
    Coffee trees are often densely planted and taller than the persons spraying them and inhalation of pesticides during application is likely as workers rarely use the recommended protective equipment for spraying. Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide. It has a high acute oral and inhalation toxicity, is an irritant to the eyes, and primarily affects the nervous system. The US Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as highly toxic and the World Health Organisation as moderately hazardous. There is evidence that endosulfan acts as an endocrine disruptor(3). Poisonings and long-term negative health and environmental effects are discussed in many publications(4,5,6).

Alternative methods of control
Traps with volatile attractants to catch CBB females (males cannot fly) have been developed(7) and used recently in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras(8,9,10). Commercial (Brocap®) traps or homemade ones, made out of water bottles, are used, with about 15 traps to one hectare. A reduction of the CBB infestation of about 85% has been achieved in some cases(11). To be an effective instrument, the traps have to be part of a management programme. The traps can catch around 12,000 CBB per day in one hectare where there might be about two million coffee berries. As long as a high build-up of infestation levels is avoided, the combination of the traps and collection of infested berries is easily managed, especially by small farmers. As a result the use of endosulfan is unnecessary. The cost of using commercial traps is about US$28/ha, the same as for chemical control(12). 
    There are mainly four species of natural enemies of CBB: Cephalonomia stephanoderis, Prorops nasuta, Heterospilus coffeicola, Phymastichus coffea. The latter may be the most effective parasitoid wasp in controlling CBB since it attacks various hosts. During 2003, the mass rearing research work at the US Department of Agriculture has successfully developed an artificial diet for the CBB. There is a clear indication now that it will become possible to mass-produce Phymastichus wasps at low prices(13). 
    An entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana also controls CBB. Adequate plantation management to influence climatic conditions and the application of aggressive Beauveria strains can help to control infestation levels. Some farmers can produce the fungus themselves, but it needs considerably more care and knowledge than the use of chemical products.

The future
With the availability of the new traps and a cheaper mass rearing of natural predators, alternative management programmes for the CBB are becoming feasible without the use of endosulfan. However, these have to be continuous, as high infestation levels are caused by neglect and are difficult to control at short notice without insecticides. Coffee organisations who generally prefer to help their farmers control CBB emergencies by donating insecticides should supporting cultural methods before CBB populations build-up. 
    Coffee production without endosulphan is possible but farmers require more knowledge and need to see how alternatives are working. The CCCC initiative launched in September 2004 (see pp 8-9) provides a framework to encourage continuous improvements with coffee production. Pilot projects demonstrating new techniques will be developed as part of this initiative and will be an important part of encouraging change.

1. Baker PS, The coffee berry borer in Colombia, Department for International Development (DFID)-CENICAFÉ.1999,154pp.
2. Baker PS et al, Natural enemies, natural allies, CABI, CENICAFÉ, 2002, 130pp.
3. EPA, Endosulfan RED Facts, EPA-738-F-02-012, 2001,

4. PAN, Ban on endosulfan in Cambodia, Pesticide News 60,2003, p19.
5 Harikrishnan V, Usha S, Endosulfan: A fact sheet and answers to common questions, Thanal, Kerala 2004,13pp,
6.UNEP/GEF, Regionally based assessment of persistent toxic substances,2002, 146pp,
7. Gonzalez M, Dufour B, Diseño, desarrollo y evaluación del trampeo en el manejo integrado de la broca del café Hypothenemus hampei en El Salvador, Boletín Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture, 2001, 91-92, 11-19.
8. Procafé, Hoja técnica, 2004,
9. Anacafé, Capacitaciones, 2004,
10. IHCAFË, 2004,
11. Dufour B et al, Validation of coffee berry borer (CBB) trapping with the Brocap® trap, ASIC 2004.
12. Ibid.

See also: Duque OH, Baker PS, Devouring profit: the socio-economics of coffee berry borer IPM, The Commodities Press,CABI/CENICAFE, 2003, 106pp.

[This article first appeared in Pesticides News No. 66, December 2004, page 10]