Location: Sustainable Perennial Crops Laboratory2021 Annual Report
Objective 1: Study possible acoustic communication in the coffee berry borer. [NP304, C3, PS3B and 3C] Objective 2: Conduct an in-depth analysis of the coffee berry borer genome and transcriptome with the goal of elucidating functional and evolutionary innovations that might lead to novel and effective pest management strategies. [NP304, C3, PS3B and 3C]
The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei, is the most devastating insect pest of coffee worldwide. Endemic to Africa, this bark beetle is now present in most coffee growing regions worldwide. Since most of its life cycle is spent inside the coffee berry, where the insect feeds solely on the coffee seeds, it is extremely difficult to manage. Most efforts aimed at managing the coffee berry borer have focused on biological control alternatives, including the release of parasitoids and the use of fungal entomopathogens, the use of traps, and cultural practices. More recently, a repellent has been identified but it is not commercially available. Due to the lack of effective and reliable pest management strategies against the coffee berry borer, it is essential to move the field in a new direction. The first objective of this project is to determine whether there is acoustic communication in the insect, and if there is, whether it can be interfered with to negatively affect its behavior and reproduction. The second objective is to conduct an in-depth analysis of the coffee berry borer genome and transcriptome with the goal of elucidating functional and evolutionary innovations that might lead to novel and effective pest management strategies. The focus will be on whether antisense oligonucleotides can be used to disrupt genes essential for survival. These objectives address the need to develop novel pest management strategies against this important agricultural pest.
Progress was made on Objective 1, which falls under National Program 304, Crop Protection and Quarantine, Component 3, Insects and Mites, Sub-component 3A2: Systems approach to environmentally-sound pest management. The LT-SEM photographs of the coffee berry borer cuticle will help elucidate the possible production of sounds by the insect. In 2021, at the invitation of a National Program Leader, the scientist served on the Coffee and Cacao Crop Germplasm Committee and, together with the Committee Chair, took the lead in writing an article entitled “Vulnerability of coffee (Coffea) genetic resources in the United States,” published in Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10722-021-01217-1).
1. Caffeine detoxifying bacteria isolated from the coffee berry borer. The coffee berry borer is the most destructive insect pest of coffee, causing global losses estimated at over $500 million per year. ARS researchers in Beltsville, Maryland, with scientists in Alabama, Hawaii, Switzerland, and Mexico, studied 50 bacterial species isolated from the coffee berry borer. DNA sequencing revealed that most of these bacteria have genes involved in caffeine breakdown or detoxification, protecting the insect from this compound during its life cycle inside the coffee berry. Some of these genes were found inside eggs and in insect feces, explaining how these bacteria are spread among these insects. These findings reveal an intricate microbial community associated with coffee berry borers, thereby expanding our knowledge of their biology and providing new insights into potential pest management methods for this devastating insect.
Poinar, G., Vega, F.E. 2020. A new genus of cylindrical bark beetle (Coleoptera: Zopheridae: Colydiinae) in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Biosis: Biological Systems. 1:134–140.
Vega, F.E., Emche, S.E., Shao, J.Y., Simpkins, A., Summers, R., Mock, M., Ebert, D., Infante, F., Aoki, S., Maul, J.E. 2021. Cultivation and genome sequencing of bacteria isolated from the coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei), with emphasis on the role of caffeine degradation. Frontiers in Microbiology. 12:644768.
Poinar, G., Vega, F.E. 2020. A new genus of Empididae (Diptera) with enlarged basal flagellomeres in Mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Historical Biology. https://doi.org/10.1080/08912963.2020.1743700.
Poinar, G., Vega, F.E. 2020. A lacewing bug, Paleoanomala aptenus gen. et sp. nov. (Hemiptera: Tingidae), in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber . Biosis: Biological Systems. 1(2):65–71.
Poinar, G., Vega, F.E., Stroinski, A. 2020. Jatoba gen. nov. (Hemiptera: Fulgoromorpha: Nogodinidae), a new genus of planthoppers from Dominican amber. Historical Biology. https://doi.org/10.1080/08912963.2020.1862107.
Poinar, G., Vega, F.E. 2021. A new genus of Apsilocephalidae (Diptera) in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Biosis: Biological Systems. 2:1–7.
Poinar, G., Chambers, K.L., Iwaniec, U.T., Vega, F.E. 2020. Valviloculus pleristaminis gen. et sp. nov., a mid-Cretaceous amber flower related to families in the order Laurales. Journal of Botanical Research Institute of Texas. 14:359–366.
Summers, R., Shao, J.Y., Mock, M., Yu, C., Vega, F.E. 2020. Draft genome of pseudomonas sp. Strain ces, containing the entire alkylxanthine gene cluster for caffeine breakdown. Microbiology Resource Announcements. https://doi.org/10.1128/MRA.
Zhang, D., Vega, F.E., Solano, W., Fuyuan, S., Infante, F., Meinhardt, L.W. 2021. Selecting a core set of nuclear SNP markers for molecular characterization of Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica L.) genetic resources. Conservation Genetics Resources. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12686-021-01201-y.