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Colletotrichum kahawae causes coffee berry disease, the characteristic symptom of which is a progressive anthracnose of young, expanding coffee berries. This commences as small water-soaked lesions which rapidly become dark and sunken. These expand causing a rot of the whole berry; under humid conditions, pink spore masses become visible on the lesion surface. Berries are often shed from the branch at an early stage of the disease and this is also a characteristic feature of coffee berry disease. Lesions may also occur on young berry stalks, causing them to be shed before lesions are evident on the berry itself. Pale, corky lesions (scab lesions) also appear on young and mature berries and are resistant reactions to infection. They may completely heal, or remain dormant until the berry begins to ripen when they may develop into active anthracnose lesions. The disease also affects ripening berries causing a 'brown blight' phase as typical dark, sunken anthracnose lesions envelop the red berry.
Anthracnose of ripe berries is also commonly caused by the weakly pathogenic Colletotrichum gloeosporioides. The mature seeds (beans) are not destroyed by this phase of the disease so that it is of less significance.
C. kahawae may also infect flowers under very wet conditions, causing brown lesions on petals.
Due to the variable regulations around (de-)registration of pesticides, we are for the moment not including any specific chemical control recommendations. For further information, we recommend you visit the following resources:
The disease was first recorded in western Kenya in 1922. McDonald (1926) reports that coffee berry disease then caused losses of up to 75%, causing the abandonment of coffee in several districts of western Kenya. A severe epidemic in central Kenya in 1967 caused the loss of entire crops and overall losses were in excess of 30% (Griffiths, 1969). Efficient chemical control can more than double yields (Griffiths et al., 1971) but the disease still causes appreciable losses which, added to the cost of chemical control, may account for as much as 20% of the value of the crop. Because the disease directly destroys the berries, losses can be dramatic. See also Boisson (1960), Saccas and Charpentier (1969b).
The occurrence of berry shedding and scab lesions makes accurate disease assessment difficult, as the numbers of diseased berries seen on branches represent a variable proportion of those lost to the disease. Accurate disease/loss assessments can be made by recording the fate of berries on marked branches (Griffiths et al., 1971).