Coffee Leaf Rust: Some Facts About Coffee’s Worst Enemy

Coffee leaf rust or Roya in Spanish, has been devastating susceptible coffee farms all
over the world. It is an airborne fungal disease caused by Hemileia vastatrix. It survives
particularly on the leaves of the coffee plant. They are transported in water, rain or air,
in the form of tiny spores. They can survive long distances explaining why they can
spread to an entire field.

When leaves are attacked, the plant won’t be able to photosynthesize which is vital for
its growth. These affected coffee plants therefore won’t be able to yield enough coffee
beans.

It is easy to spot coffee leaf rust when it strikes as pale, yellow spots can be found on
the upper surfaces of the leaves. When these spots increase in diameter, there can be
orange uredospores that appear underneath.

Unlike other rusts which break through the epidermis, these fungi targets the stomata.

There will be powdery lesions in yellowish orange color concentrated on any part of the
leaves. These infected leaves will then drop prematurely.

We have gathered here some facts on coffee leaf rust that you may want to know.

 In 1830, there was a coffee leaf rust epidemic that destroyed the coffee industry
in Ceylon.

 In 2012, a coffee leaf rust epidemic struck Central American crops causing a
billion dollar damage in just 2 years! According to IHCAFE, over 30,000 coffee
plots were affected by leaf rust infections.

 Coffee leaf rust has devastated an area in South America equivalent to the entire
size of Europe which is a whopping 10 million square kilometers. In 2013,
Guatemala grew 40 percent less coffee because of coffee leaf rust.

 The Colombian government spent over 1 billion dollars to combat this disease
as it devastated its primary coffee crop which is the Arabica Coffee.

 It has become too severe that farmers need to decide whether to feed their
families or invest in the ways to mitigate La roya.

 Despite national efforts, as of April 2017, according to IHCAFE, the incidence
level of rust in Honduras was only 6 percent below the level of economic
damage.

5 Alarming Facts About Coffee Leaf Rust

If you are a coffee person and you are actually reading this, appreciate your next cup of coffee. As much as you always get that coffee you crave forever. There might come a time that coffee won’t be easy to avail.

Unfortunately, it’s not just us people who love coffee. Over the recent years, coffee rust or “Roya” in Spanish, has been a plague in Central and South American coffee farms. They are notorious coffee-eating plant pathogens that messes up the healthy growth of plants. These have airborne spores making it really a pain to control. Once it has infiltrated your field of coffee, brace yourself for the worst.

What CLR does is that it attacks the leaves of the coffee plant, disabling it to photosynthesize efficiently. No photosynthesis means no more coffee beans.

To orient you and give you a glimpse of this issue, we have gathered here a few facts about coffee leaf rust.

1. Colombia’s primary coffee crop, the Coffea Arabica, which accounts for 70% of all the world’s coffee has been devastated by this Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR). The Colombian government has spent over $1 billion over the last three years to address this issue.

2. Drinking a cup of coffee affected by CLR is like drinking a wood flavored drink. Yes, I hate to break it to you but…

3. CLR has caused Guatemala to have 40 % less coffee production last year.

4. The affected region in Central and South America is the same size as Europe. Imagine that! That is a whopping 10 million sq. kilometers.

5. Coffee leaf rust has been a really serious problem that coffee farmers weigh between investing in its mitigation of feeding their families.

Fortunately, the race has started to develop solutions to cure or prevent coffee plants from CLR. Some have been also developing coffee that has enough genetic diversity and resistance to beat these CLR once and for all.

CentroAmericano and Other New Coffee Varieties: Can They Save Coffee?

With the different factors that affect the growth all over the world, scientists are now looking for ways to save the crop. Recently, Centroamericano and seven other new hybrid coffee varieties are slowly being introduced to the market.

They might not be a popular coffee variety yet, like the ones people normally order at their favorite coffee shops, but these kinds are the coolest.

Centroamericano can withstand the effects of climate change, which is one of the most common factors why coffee crops die. See, coffee requires specific temperatures to flourish.

Doug Welsh, vice president of Peet’s coffee, a company which has invested in the World Coffee Research, said that coffee is still not ready to adapt to climate change without help.

The WCR kicked off with 46 new coffee varieties that will soon change the coffee growing game.

More information here:

Univesity of California Researchers Sequence Arabica Coffee Genome

Recently, an international team of University of California researchers has publicly released the first public genome sequence of Arabica coffee.

The genome was sequenced from a remarkable variety called Geisha.

“The variety Geisha originates from the mountains of the western Ethiopian provinces of Maji and Goldija, near the town of Geisha, and is a selection known for its unique aromatic qualities,” the researchers explained.

“The new genome sequence for Coffea arabica contains information crucial for developing high-quality, disease-resistant coffee varieties that can adapt to the climate changes that are expected to threaten global coffee production in the next three decades,” explained co-author Dr. Juan Medrano, from the University of California, Davis.

“We hope that the Coffea arabica sequence will eventually benefit everyone involved with coffee — from coffee farmers, whose livelihoods are threatened by devastating diseases like coffee leaf rust, to coffee processors and consumers around the world.”

Know more about it here.