CAS is a highly destructive pest in southern Florida and worldwide. In 1996, CAS was introduced to Miami, FL, from southern China or Thailand (Germain and Hodges, 2007; Howard and Weissling, 1999; Howard et al., 1999; Weissling et al., 1999). CAS is highly detrimental to cycads. Since its introduction, thousands of cycads have been killed in the Miami area (Mannion, 2003; Whitelock, 2002). CAS is also the greatest threat to the native population of fadang in Guam (Marler and Muniappan, 2006). Its abundance is taking a toll on cycad plantings and is posing a problem for the foliage industry (Emshousen et al., 2004; Wiese et al., 2005; Woods, 2007). The ornamental horticulture industry has suffered millions of dollars in losses because of CAS (Mannion, 2003; Woods, 2007).
The debao cycad is critically endangered, and the population trend is decreasing (International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2010). Artificial propagation in the commercial nursery industry will be highly beneficial to the species, by minimizing collecting pressure on the wild populations. Its bipinnate leaf structure makes it an attractive foliage plant, though its susceptibility to CAS may deter nurseries from propagating this species.
Since 2006, there has been discussion in the cycad enthusiast community regarding the benefits of coffee grounds (Broome, 2007; Kelly, 2008); yet, no scientific studies support these claims (Popenoe, 2010). Two methods of application have been discussed: 1) a foliar application of coffee grounds mixed with water and 2) coffee mulch at the base of the plants. In prior research, foliar contact pesticide applications have not worked well to control CAS because of the heavy-scale concentrations on the undersides of leaves (Howard and Weissling, 1999; Smith and Cave, 2006; Wiese et al., 2005) and roots (Howard et al., 1999; Weissling et al., 1999), which are difficult to cover with foliar sprays (Hodges et al., 2003; Smith and Cave, 2006).
At Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC, Coral Gables, FL), research on the control and integrated pest management of CAS has been performed (Wiese and Mannion, 2007). Mannion (2003) performed a study examining possible chemical deterrents, many of which were not viable because of phytotoxicity. Experiments on biological control of CAS were also conducted at MBC (Cave, 2006; Wiese and Mannion, 2007; Wiese et al., 2005).
Potential insecticidal activity of coffee was tested on leaf-cutting ant (Atta sexdens rubropilosa) with negative results (Miyashira et al., 2011) and on mosquito (Aedes aegypti) with positive results (Guirado and Bicudo, 2007; Laranja et al., 2003).
Prior studies indicated neem oil (Fiaz et al., 2012; Mamoon-ur-Rashid et al., 2012; Tang et al., 2002) and orange oil (Ashok et al., 2007; Hollingsworth, 2005; Zunino et al., 2012) have insecticidal properties.
In 2009, a preliminary study was conducted at MBC involving a variety of cycads that were mulched with spent coffee grounds. The goal of the study was to observe whether there would be a benefit with regard to CAS control. The results appeared to be positive, but lacked quantitative rigor and sufficient control. This study was conducted to more rigorously determine whether spent coffee grounds are an effective control method for CAS.
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