Rust Wreaks Havoc

Colombia has spent decades developing the rust-resistant Castillo variety of coffee. The fungus is running wild through Central America now, doing serious longterm damage.

Colombia has spent decades developing the rust-resistant Castillo variety of coffee. The fungus is running wild through Central America now, doing serious longterm damage.

The science journal, Nature, takes a look at the explosion of coffee rust, or roya, in Central America. The longterm damage will be devastating. From the story:

The latest outbreak may halve the 2013–14 harvest in the worst affected areas of the nation. This outbreak is “the worst we’ve seen in Central America and Mexico since the rust arrived” in the region more than 40 years ago, says John Vandermeer, an ecologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who has received “reports of devastation in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico”.

The solution to combatting rust will not be easy, especially as it thrives in warmer temperatures and wetter environments, which unfortunately are becoming more and more common throughout the Central America and the tropics as climate change makes a greater and greater impact.

Colombia could be the closest to a solution. Marco Aurelio Cristancho, a researcher at Cenicafé, the National Centre for the Investigation of Coffee in Chinchiná, says that the government has supported research into developing resistant strains of coffee through crossbreeding. The introduction of resistant strains, together with improved weather monitoring to help predict rust outbreaks, has meant that fewer than 10% of plants now need to be treated with fungicide, down from 60% four years ago, Cristancho says. The government has also supported work on the genetics of both the fungus and the plant.

No matter if a workable solution can be found or not, it will take time to implement, and the effects of the rust will be immediate and devastating to many coffee farmers who depend on an annual harvest for their livelihood.  The whole article is here: http://www.nature.com/news/coffee-rust-regains-foothold-1.12320

About the Author

Ken

Kenneth R. Olson is co-founder and publisher of Barista Magazine the worldwide trade magazine for the professional coffee community. He has written extensively about specialty coffee, traveled near and far for stories, activities, and fun, and been invited to present on topics important to coffee culture. He is also an avid fan of the Portland Trail Blazers and the Washington Huskies. Go Blazers! Go Dawgs!