For coffee growers, moth invasions are a nightmare, as the insects cannot be eliminated by either traditional herbal pesticides or chemical treatments.
But researchers have developed a new way to deal with them, effectively reducing the damage while significantly decreasing pesticide use as well.
Moths are difficult to eradicate with pesticides since the insects live their whole life inside the coffee fruit, which contains the beans and where poison does not reach, says Prof Chawalit Korsamphan, an agricultural researcher at Chiang Mai University.
Since 2006, moths began appearing in northern Thai coffee plantations, where the increasingly popular arabica beans are cultivated.
Only 2-3% of the coffee fruit was damaged in the early years, but the moth invasions worsened two years ago until some plantation areas were destroyed by either the insects or pesticide use.
"The growers apply large amounts of chemical pesticides even though they know these hardly work. It's a waste of money," said Prof Chawalit.
"Worse, coffee plantations are located on mountains near drinking water sources. Pesticide overuse will contaminate water running to the Central Plains."
The new method allows farmers to drive the insects away without the need for pesticides or other chemicals. The method consists of an attractant and a trap, costing five baht a set.
A similar product is made in Costa Rica for US$2, excluding transport costs.
Prof Chawalit said after several years of field testing, a group found the amount of moth-eaten coffee fruit had decreased to 10% of the crop, with huge savings on the cost of chemical pesticides.
Farmers can now grow their coffee organically, thereby increasing the value of their fresh coffee beans, he said.
The researchers are coordinating with the National Science and Technology Development Agency to licence interested investors wanting to develop the sets into a commercially viable product.
About the author
- Writer: Yuthana Praiwan
Position: Business Reporter