Coffee Leaf Rust or CLR is a devastating disease that affects susceptible coffee plantations. It’s brought by a Pucciniales fungus called Hemileia vastatrix. In order to survive, the rust must come into physical contact with coffee, its obligate host.
It’s called coffee leaf rust because it looks yellow-orange and powdery. It also appears on the leaves’ underside. Young lesions usually appear pale yellow while older lesions are smaller in diameter.
Coffee Rust Life Cycle
The life of the Hemileia fungus starts with the germination of the uredospores. They mainly attack the leaves, but can also be found on fruits and young stems. Then, Appressoria are produced. They produce vesicles to enter the substomatal cavity of the leaves. After a day or two, infection is completed.
When an infection has been successful, the leaf blade colonization and sporulation will happen through the stomata. A lesion can produce 4 to 6 spore crops. After 3 to 5 months, they will release about 300,000 to 400,000 spores. Thus, spread the infection widely.
Coffee Leaf Rust Ecology and History
Coffee Rust destroyed the flourishing Sri Lanka and Java coffee plantations in the 1800s.
This epidemic disease was finally discovered in 1970. During then, it was widespread in Brazil and it was the first known infection in the Western Hemisphere.
In 1989, the coffee rust disease reached Costa Rica and in 1995, it hit Nicaragua.
The 2012 Coffee Rust Epidemic
Researchers were still looking for the solution for this problem when an epidemic hit ten Latin American and Caribbean countries in 2012. The disease became an epidemic and the resulting crop losses pushed coffee prices to an all-time high amid concerns for supply. The reasons for the epidemic remain unclear but an emergency rust summit meeting in Guatemala in April 2013 compiled a long list of shortcomings. These included a lack of resources to control the rust, the dismissal of early warning signs, ineffective fungicide application techniques, lack of training, poor infrastructure and conflicting advice.
Coffee rust is one of the most leading problems in the coffee industry all over the world. Affected countries struggle in looking for ways to eliminate this devastating problem.
In fact, coffee rust highly affects a country’s industry especially those that mainly depend on their coffee industry. With that being said, the government and huge companies spend millions of dollars to get rid of this problem. In fact, thousands of farmers lose their jobs because of this.
If the government itself and some huge companies are already having a hard time, how much more for those small coffee producers?
Small farmers depend on their coffee crops for their living. So, when signs of coffee rust start to show, they know that they need to find a way to contain this epidemic.
Aside from the government’s continued support, small farmers also get help from co-op organizations. These organizations support the farmers by providing them financial assistance and helping them in looking for solutions.
Oikocredit is a cooperative itself, headquartered in the Netherlands but operating across the world with a focus on social impact investing and capacity building in low-income countries.
It provides loans and equity to mid-stage, revenue-generating cooperatives, fair trade organisations and small-to-medium- sized enterprises operating in financial inclusion, agriculture and renewable energy sectors in Africa, Asia, Latin America and cental and eastern Europe.
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.”
The coffee rust epidemic problem has reached a lot of countries in Africa, Asia, and in Southern and Central America. Coffee plantations failed to produce as much crops as they need for commercial growth. Thus, thousands of workers were laid off because of this epidemic disease.
The effects of the 2002 – 2003 Coffee Rust Outbreak are:
coffee rust solutions, coffee rust treatments, in Guatemala where coffee growers saw their productions decrease by 40% since 2012.
The 2016 reality is that people are still researching to find new coffee rust treatments, because the solutions found so far are not effective enough.
Planting GMO rust-resistant trees has been shown to be very expensive ($1 per tree, and NO PRODUCTION for three to four years), the flavor of the specialty coffee seems to be hard to maintain with a half-Robusta/half-Arabica tree, and very often Specialty coffee growers would rather keep their old varieties and find a treatment for the coffee trees that allows them to KEEP the trees… That’s where CR-10 may be a great organic coffee rust control solution.
It shows the type of coffee that grows in each country and how many 60-kg bags a country and total metric tons of coffee a country can produce in each year. As you can see, most countries can produce both coffee cancephora and coffea arabica. However, there are still some countries which produce coffea arabica or coffea cancephora solely.
Brazil is the largest coffee producer of both coffea cancephora and coffea arabica. They produce 2,720.520 metric tons of coffee every year. The country is known for their high quality coffee seeds and is a massive source of organic coffee worldwide.
Brazil is followed by India, which is one of the biggest coffee producers in Asia. They produce 300,300 metric tons of coffee every single year.
Meanwhile, the known leading producers of coffea arabica are Peru, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico.
An interesting point of view from an Expert in the Coffee Industry.
Coffee Rust in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala,…
Watch Renaud Cuchet, Manager of EFICO Central America SA, based in Guatemala, yet doing business globally in the coffee industry, and discover which countries suffered the most from coffee rust, which one is getting out of it, and why countries outside of Central America and Mexico (in Asia for instance) seem to be less affected by coffee rust.
BioNovelus CEO Jean Ekobo shared his amazing experience in visiting leading companies in the organic biopesticides and fungicides and distributors of organic agricultural products in Mexico. …Still on a mission to fight coffee rust! Bringing one of our green solutions: biopesticide CR-10.