Fun(gi) at ICAFE

Today we visited ICAFE, which is an institute that mainly focuses on the research of preventing diseases that affect coffee plants. In the lab, scientists replicate the environment that the plants will grow in. This includes temperature and also factors in that most diseases are prevalent during the rainy season. The majority of diseases come from fungus. To remedy the fungi problem, ICAFE tests the best fungicide to use and when the optimal time to apply it is. Typically, the best time to apply it is a few weeks before rainy season. The fungicide should be applied 2-3 times a year. An alternative option is applying Trichoderma, which is a more natural way to protect the coffee plant. Research for mutations to create new varieties of coffee plants is relatively new but is promising for the future.

ICAFE has 4 offices around the country. Periodically, conferences are held to share information to try and create the best environment for coffee famers to grow their crop. Booklets are created by ICAFE with the best information and distributed amongst farmers. We were also told at the lab that remedies are given to farmers free of charge. Farmers would need help from ICAFE if they are behind on technology and running an inefficient plantation. Additionally, if a farmer is being affected by and a disease-causing fungus, they would be wise to get information on the best steps to take from ICAFE.

There are some cases where coffee producers would not want to be associated with ICAFE. One would be the idea that their ideas are superior to those of ICAFE and that they would have nothing to gain from ICAFE. Another reason could be competition. If large producers give their ideas to ICAFE, all other famers could be informed on their idea and then they could lose their advantage against other producers. Even if larger producers find working with ICAFE to be a disadvantage, I think that for Costa Rica and the coffee industry it is best to spread ideas to create the most optimal environment.

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