Organic coffee threatened by fungus

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Global warming-stoked fungus causes problems

Teodomiro Melendres Ojeda, an organic coffee grower in Cajamarca, Peru, stands at a crossroads. Neither path is attractive.

Leaf-rust fungus, known as roya in Spanish, has devastated about a third of his crop. Melendres, 48, can use chemicals to kill it, though he risks forfeiting his organic certification and the 10 percent price premium it brings. Or he can preserve the certification and watch his plants die.

“We coffee producers are living between a rock and a hard place,” Melendres said.

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The evolution of caffeine and Robusta coffee

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Coffee genome sheds light on the structure of Robusta coffee

 

Enzymes that help produce caffeine evolved independently in coffee, tea and chocolate, say scientists who have newly sequenced the coffee plant genome

An important new paper for coffee lovers has recently been published based on work with Robusta (Coffea canephora).

It illustrates the evolution of genes involved in caffeine biosynthesis, as well as genes for secondary compounds and disease resistance.  This genome will be important for future efforts to generate disease resistant varieties using Coffea canephora  while maintaining the marketable traits important in export-quality coffee.

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In the Press: Central American coffee rust crisis: No easy answers

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An article in STIR Tea & Coffee Industry International looks at coffee rust or roya as it is known in Central America. How coffee rust affects coffee estates and the considerations managers must make regarding businesses is discussed. Tim Schilling, executive director of WCR, is quoted regarding the likelihood of other rust outbreaks, or similar events that will affect coffee production.

To see the full article …

Cracking Coffee’s Genetic Code. Frankencoffee?

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Scientists have managed to sequence the java genome, a breakthrough that brings new insights into the venerated bean while also opening the door to genetic engineering.

A group of more than 60 international researchers painstakingly pinpointed all the genes that make up robusta coffee, according to an article published last week in Science, a plant variety that accounts for roughly one-third of the world’s coffee consumption. Various groups are still working on sequencing the fancier, more delicious arabica strand, which contains about twice as much genetic information.

One surprising discovery: Coffee’s mode of producing caffeine is quite different from that of its cousin, cocoa, indicating that the two plants don’t share a common ancestor. There are several reasons why unrelated plants might evolve to produce the addictive substance we love so much. “Bugs don’t chew on the coffee plant leaves because they don’t like the caffeine, but pollinators like bees do,” Victor Albert, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Buffalo and one of the study’s authors, told the Associated Press. “So pollinators come back for more—just like we do for our cups of coffee” (read more).

A New Coalition for Specialty Coffee

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Coffee Quality Institute and World Coffee Research Join Forces

The World Coffee Research (WCR) and the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) are excited to announce the formation of a new coalition. The two organizations, whose missions are closely aligned, have agreed to work together for a common goal of quality improvement and research. While the organizations will continue to work autonomously, the coalition provides strength and leadership for the industry as a whole.

Each organization brings unique strengths and expertise to the coalition. WCR is an expert in fundamental research, driven R&D, and market research, whereas CQI is an expert in coffee production and processing improvements, sensory analysis/green coffee grading, and other technical expertise. WCR Executive Director Timothy Schilling comments, “The strength of WCR combined with the expertise of CQI under the prestigious Borlaug Institute will provide a ‘one-stop’ service center for coffee development activities. By joining forces, we are able to take on full projects and provide a unique service to the industry that has never existed before.”

The first project undertaken by the coalition will be with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Land O’Lakes International Development to research genetic markers to scientifically identify the Yemen origin, which could increase international markets for these fine coffees. David Roche, executive director of CQI, concludes, “CQI is excited to have this formal relationship with WCR in order to fully integrate and centralize global coffee development work. We are thrilled to be part of this unprecedented partnership to improve quality around the world.”

Future projects may be undertaken in Rwanda and Burundi in the upcoming months. For further details, please watch worldcoffee

The evolution of caffeine and Robusta coffee

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Coffee genome sheds light on the structure of Robusta coffee

Enzymes that help produce caffeine evolved independently in coffee, tea and chocolate, say scientists who have newly sequenced the coffee plant genome

An important new paper for coffee lovers has recently been published based on work with Robusta (Coffea canephora). It illustrates the evolution of genes involved in caffeine biosynthesis, as well as genes for secondary compounds and disease resistance.  This genome will be important for future efforts to generate disease resistant varieties using Coffea canephora  while maintaining the marketable traits important in export-quality coffee.

“What we would really like to have and we will work towards is of course the Arabica genome which is the more predominant and higher quality species,” said Tim Schilling, executive director of World Coffee Research. “But just having >50% of the Arabica genome through knowing the full sequence of the canephora genome is going to help us accelerate our progress at breeding higher quality, rust resistant varieties that can withstand greater effects of climate change.”

This paper is a landmark achievement that will be felt by coffee lovers and coffee producers in the next five years when there is more understanding of which part of the genome is important for various traits. “Then we can apply new, fast methods and assemble all those genes into the coffee plant.  And we’ll do that without necessarily using GMO type technologies.  We can do it through enhanced classic techniques,” Schilling continued.

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Coffee rust and immigration

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What is coffee rust and why is it pushing people to the U.S. border?

Meet the world’s most important coffee disease that you’ve never heard of – rust fungus, a.k.a. “la roya.”

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World Coffee Research shipping first plantlets in IMLVT

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Young coffee plants seeking good homes – will work for room and board

Coffee plantlets ready for shipping.

Coffee plantlets ready for shipping.

The first shipment of coffee plantlets from World Coffee Research (WCR) to test farms in 19 countries goes out this summer. This is a major milestone for the International Multi-Location Variety Trial (IMLVT) designed to aid coffee farmers by establishing a decision tool that will give them real information about the best possible varieties to grow.

Dr. Tim Schilling, Executive Director of WCR believes the Variety Trial is the key to success for the future of coffee. “The use of several ‘extreme climate environments’ in this global trial will allow us to see how these varieties perform under ‘future’ climates predicted for 30 and 50 years from now,” he said. “This will be the first time we’ll be able to see how climate change is really going to affect coffee in the future.”

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The Coffee Source matches dollars

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If you buy coffee from The Coffee Source, ask them to match dollars with you.

coffee-flowersFounded in 1944 by two coffee growing families in Costa Rica, The Coffee Source recently signed on to support World Coffee Research through the Check-Off program. And they are matching 100% which means double the support for WCR (importer and roaster).

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Checking-Off with Sustainable Harvest

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Investing in the future

Sustainable Harvest Specialty Coffee Importers joined World Coffee Research to work with the Check-Off program. Sustainable Harvest is an importer of high quality specialty-grade coffees from over fifteen countries around the world.

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