Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


U-Michigan Ecologists: No Magic Bullet for Coffee Rust Eradication

Spraying fungicide to kill coffee rust disease, which has ravaged Latin American plantations since late 2012, is an approach that is "doomed to failure," according to University of Michigan ecologists.

Instead, management practices focused on maintaining the complex web of ecological interactions among coffee plantation organisms—including insects, fungi, plants, birds and bats—are much more likely to succeed in the long run, according to the U-M researchers, who provide an overview of the recent Latin American coffee rust epidemic in a paper published online Jan. 22 in the journal BioScience.

Coffee rust is a fungus, but spraying fungicides to kill it may inadvertently destroy natural fungal enemies of coffee rust that help to keep it in check.

And the ongoing abandonment of traditional shade-growing techniques, in which coffee is grown beneath a canopy of trees, likely reduces the diversity and abundance of beneficial insects and opens the plantations to winds that help disperse coffee rust spores, according to U-M ecologist John Vandermeer and his co-authors, Ivette Perfecto and Doug Jackson.

"Small, seemingly trivial changes in environmental conditions can generate dramatic shifts in the underlying dynamics of the disease," the researchers wrote. "The techniques of so-called modernization (e.g., cutting shade, applying fungicides) may gradually eliminate what has been effectively autonomous biological control" of coffee rust.

"A movement back toward more shaded systems, with minimal application of agrochemicals, might be an appropriate recommendation for coffee farmers in the region."

Vandermeer is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and at the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Perfecto is a professor at SNRE. Jackson was a U-M graduate student when much of the research was done and now works at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Vandermeer and Perfecto have operated research plots at an organic coffee plantation in southern Chiapas, Mexico, for about 16 years. Last year, more than 60 percent of the coffee plants there experienced more than 80 percent defoliation due to coffee rust fungus, and nearly 9 percent of the plants died.

The recent coffee rust epidemic damaged plantations from Mexico to Peru, and applying fungicide is one of the main control methods promoted in the affected countries. But generalized fungicides can also kill the white halo fungus, which is known to attack coffee rust.

If conventional disease control methods alone are used to address the coffee rust problem, the disease may prove to be intractable in Latin America, according to the authors. It's even possible that coffee rust will maintain its epidemic status indefinitely in the region, though additional research would be required to determine if that is likely to happen.

Coffee rust "threatens the livelihoods of millions of farmers and will potentially distort the economies of many of the world's most vulnerable nations," according to Vandermeer and his colleagues. "It is reasonable to suggest that the situation calls for a revitalization of what pest control specialists have come to call 'autonomous pest control.'"

Jim Erickson | Newswise
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Harnessing a peptide holds promise for increasing crop yields without more fertilizer
25.11.2015 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Study shows how crop prices and climate variables affect yield and acreage
18.11.2015 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>