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Borer beetles cause major problems for Gukeng coffee farms

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Around 40 hectares of coffee fields in the Gukeng (古坑) area of Yunlin County (雲林縣) are reportedly being savaged by borer beetles, the Gukeng Township Office reported yesterday, saying that authorities will strengthen farm management in an attempt to stem the tide of the infestation.

On Monday, local media reported that without the borer beetle's natural enemy — the wasp — to balance its numbers, Gukeng coffee farms are being severely attacked by beetles, and even Shihpi (石壁), Yunlin's highest-altitude coffee farm, has not been spared from the assault.

Gukeng Township Office was quoted by Liberty Times as saying that the coffee borer beetle is among the most harmful pests to coffee crops. Twenty to 50 percent of the coffee beans were damaged this year; however, this is not the first time the coffee farms have been damaged by borer beetles, and authorities have adopted several preventive measures.

The office went on to say that Gukeng has around 60 hectares of coffee farms in total, 40 hectares of which are located in middle- to low-altitude areas, such as Hopausan (荷苞山).

The office said it is very common to discover borer beetles in low-altitude areas. However, the existence of the beetles does not affect the quality of coffee beans that survive their numbers.

After farmers collect coffee beans from the farms, they will immerse those beans in water, after which damaged, molded or unripened beans can be spotted and removed, the office explained.

Authorities stressed that farm management is the key to control the borer beetles' damage, adding that every procedure is strictly managed by farmers until the coffee beans are picked, and the farmers associations have already distributed traps to farmers for capturing beetles.

Referring to hundreds of plastic bottles tied with traps scattered among the coffee fields in Gukeng, the towship office said that the traps worked well, as every time they check the bottles they discover lots of borer beetles stuck inside them.

Gukeng Farmers' Association staff member Liu Yi-teng (劉易騰), who is also a coffee bean grower in the town, was quoted by Liberty Times as saying that borer beetles will drill into the coffee beans and sustain themselves on the pulp.

Liu said it is hard to identify from the surface of a coffee bean whether or not it has been damaged by the borer beetles, noting that usually it is not until the coffee bean is picked that a farmer will discover the severe damage.

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