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Coffee leaves infested with P. coffeella are recognized by the presence of large, irregular, brown spots on the upper surface of the leaf. Rubbing the spot, or bending the leaf across the spot, results in the separation of the upper epidermis and the exposure, in fresh mines, of small white caterpillars. Mined leaves are usually shed prematurely.
In most areas of Latin America, coffee is grown under the shade of the original forest vegetation and/or under the shade of recommended species of trees which have agronomic advantages for the crop (Nestel, 1995). While shade is preserved in the coffee systems for agronomic reasons, coffee leaf miner outbreaks associated with the massive removal of shade trees have been reported (Motte, 1976; Wrigley, 1988). However, Nestel et al. (1994) found no difference in the population loads of the coffee leaf miner in shaded and unshaded coffee plots located in an area where 90% of the coffee plantations are grown under shade trees. This result is probably related to the small size of the experimental plots which were surrounded by coffee plantations having shade trees (Nestel et al., 1994). Although there is no confirmation on the use and effect of shade trees as a control on the coffee leaf miner, Nestel (1995) supports the preservation of shade in coffee agroecosystems due to its contribution to the general ecology of coffee agroecosystems.
During the 1960s, scientists in Costa Rica studied the feasibility of mass-rearing P. coffeella for sterilization with gamma radiation (Le Pelley, 1973). This study intended to apply the sterile-insect technique against P. coffeella. No advances have been made in this study.
P. coffeella is present with a complex of parasitoids over a large part of the Neotropical region (Le Pelley, 1973). Under certain environmental conditions (i.e. plantations over 1000 m above sea level, maintenance of shade trees, no utilization of insecticides and fungicides) the complex of natural enemies, in conjunction with other biological and ecological factors, is able to keep coffee leaf miner populations below economic threshold levels (Wrigley, 1988). Moreover, without major disturbances to the environment, there is a clear density-dependent relationship between the coffee leaf-miner and its parasitoids (Bigger, 1973; Florez and Hernandez, 1983; Aranda Delgado, 1986).
There have been some attempts in the past to implement strategies of classical biological control against the coffee leaf-miner. The most well-known case is that of the braconid wasp, Mirax insularis, which was imported from Guadeloupe and Dominica to other islands of the Caribbean and to Africa (Le Pelley, 1973). In most of these cases, the parasitoid did not establish in the new habitat, or the establishment did not result in any useful control. In spite of the fact that the coffee leaf miner seems to have originated in Reunion and Madagascar (Green, 1984), there are no reported attempts to introduce parasitoids against it from Africa to the New World.
Several studies have shown that species of Coffea have different degrees of resistance to the coffee leaf-miner. As an example, a study in Puerto Rico showed that coffee plants of C. stenophylla were uninfested in the field and that the P. coffeella moth could not be bred from them in greenhouse conditions (Le Pelley, 1973). However, while there is always the possibility of breeding coffee for resistance, there have not been any serious attempts in Latin America to breed C. arabica for resistance using less susceptible Coffea species (Wrigley, 1988).
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:
Serious outbreaks of P. coffeella, with consequential heavy economic losses, have been reported in Brazil, Venezuela, El Salvador and Guatemala (Wrigley, 1988). As an example, crop damage resulting from a massive outbreak of the pest during the 1963-64 cycle in Guatemala was estimated at a value of $10 000 000 (Rodriguez et al., 1966). Crop losses are exacerbated when attacks occur during the formation of the coffee fruit (Motte, 1976).