Detection system for coffee pests and diseases, in progress

The development of a detection system for coffee pests and diseases continues through a project funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD).

Dr. Ernelea P. Cao of the Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) leads the implementation of the project, “Development of a Detection System for Pest and Disease Resistance in Philippine Coffee Varieties,” which will use molecular markers to differentiate resistant from susceptible local coffee varieties against insect pests and diseases.

Dr. Cao explained that the impact of coffee pests is only seen when they are widespread. Through the project, insect pest and disease incidences can be reduced through early screening of coffee seedlings using the detection system.

On its first year, the project has designed and synthesized primers that will be used for the detection system. Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) technology was used on Coffea arabica and C. canephora varieties, producing promising results in detecting coffee white stem borer, coffee leaf rust, and coffee berry disease.

Looking ahead, the project will collect leaf samples of National Seed Industry Council (NSIC)-registered C. arabica varieties at the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in Baguio City. The team will compare healthy coffee leaves with coffee leaf rust and white stem borer-infested ones to validate resistant and susceptible genes identified through RNA profiling. The LAMP primers designed by the team will also be validated in coffee plantations in Batangas and Cavite.

These accomplishments were reviewed and assessed by the technical review and evaluation panel (TREP) led by Dr. Rita P. Laude, an expert on crop genetics from the University of the Philippine Los Baños. During the review, she emphasized the importance of integrating a breeding component in the project to introduce the resistant genes to other coffee varieties.

The annual project review was organized by the DOST-PCAARRD's Crops Research Division (CRD) and attended by the UPD project team, DOST-PCAARRD Deputy Executive Director for Research and Development (R&D) Feliciano G. Calora, Jr., Commodity Specialist for Coffee Ms. Renelle C. Yebron, and key CRD staff.