Developing Resistant Coffee Plants

ICAFE is a part of the Costa Rican government that focuses on research and development of controlling diseases throughout the coffee plants. During our trip, we saw that they were studying 5 major diseases that affected the plants around the country, one of which being the coffee rust. To combat those diseases they are looking at several different options. The first one is looking at good fungus to kill and control the bad fungus that grows in the fields. Additionally, they are identifying and developing plants who have immunities to certain diseases and then cloning them with their leaves. The process of cloning takes about two years which is much quicker than developing a new variety of coffee plant that is resistant. Overall, developing a new type of coffee plant can take anywhere from 20-30 years. First, they have to identify what plants have resistances. After they identified them, they have to pick and choose what offspring has those resistances anywhere from four to six generations, each generation taking about five years to develop.

A coffee farmer may seek help from ICAFE when their plants are getting sick. ICAFE can take samples of leaves and identify what is happening. Once the disease(s) are identified, they can tell the farmer what types of chemicals to spray and when to use them in order to minimize the impact on other plants and animals around them.

In some cases, a larger producer might not want help from ICAFE. In addition to researching coffee plant diseases, they also check the quality of the coffee. If a larger producer is trying to mix beans from the robusta plant with arabica beans to make more of a profit, they wouldn’t want ICAFE to look into it and find out. Additionally, studying the quality of coffee beans take time. If larger producers might not want to spend time investigating how pure their coffee is.


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