Colombia Coffee Growers Turn to Genetics for Better Crop Yield

Colombia is betting on genetic research to adapt coffee crops to climate change, as farmers come to terms with the harsh rainy season that has threatened production.

The Andean nation, the world’s top producer of high-quality Arabica beans, is increasingly relying on science to recover coffee output, after three years of lower-than-expected production.
Jose Ramon Collazos, a 56-year-old coffee grower whose farm sits high among the hills of Huila province in southern Colombia, is among those tired of rain.
[Jose Ramon Collazos, Coffee Grower]:
“[The rainy season] has been a very serious phenomenon, because even though we have done all the work of fertilization and controlling the plants heath, there is nothing we can do about the rain. It has affected us greatly, decreasing production in our coffee fields by between 30 and 40 percent.”
The weather has also led to an increase in the roya, a fungus that attacks the coffee plants leaves and can cripple entire crops.
Through genetics, eight roya-resistant varieties have now been developed in Colombia.
The seeds are being distributed to regional coffee cooperatives, which then allocate them to growers.
Carlos Armando Uribe, coordinator from the Colombian Coffee Growers Association, explains how the climate has caused such serious problems for the industry.
[Carlos Armando Uribe, Colombian Coffee Growers Association]:
“To produce coffee, the plant needs hours of light and with this rainy season there is too much fog. This means there is not enough light for the plants to flower and photosynthesize, or for the grain to develop the right way. The temperature has also been lower by one degree on average, which also affects us.”
Climatologists at Cenicafe, the National Center for Coffee Investigations, are also working to provide better local weather forecasts and continue mapping the arabica coffee genome to  improve coffee quality and yields.
Colombia aims to be producing 15 million sacks of coffee annually by 2015, rising to 18 million by 2020.


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