IMLVT’s first harvests

Cherries arrive at San Antonio farm in Huehuetenango

When World Coffee Research (WCR) formed in 2012, one of the first initiatives the organization launched was the International Multilocation Variety Trial (IMLVT). The IMLVT is the world’s largest coffee variety performance trial and seed exchange: 31 top varieties of Arabica coffee were brought to 23 countries around the world for rigorous testing and evaluation to see how different varieties perform in different environments. WCR's local partners in each country observe the varieties and report back with data.

Each participating country planted the same 31 varieties in the IMLVT; most plants went in the ground in 2015 and 2016. Those trials are finally beginning to produce their first harvests. Earlier this month, about three years after trees were planted, cherries were harvested at an IMLVT sites in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

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WCR's Regional Scientific Coordinator for Central America, Dr. Anzueto, talks to Daniel and Willy Pérez, the owners of the San Antonio farm in Huehuetenango, where the IMLVT plots are located.

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An F1 hybrid variety known as EC15 is one of the 31 varieties being tested in the IMLVT network. EC 15 was the most productive variety at this trial site—30 trees yielded about 65kg coffee cherries. At each site, varieties are planted in three randomized blocks (each block contains one row of 10 trees), allowing researchers to conduct statistical analyses of plant growth, harvest, and quality data.

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Jose Paiz, WCR's country agronomist for Mexico and Guatemala, posing in front of a SLN 6 tree.

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A view of the trial site, whose plants are three years old.

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Weighing the cherries produced by each variety. Harvest data is one of the most important pieces of information collected from the trial, allowing researchers to see which trees thrive in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, and which ones struggle.

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Dr. Anzueto stands in the Pérez family tasting laboratory, preparing to cup a variety samples from the trial.

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Dr. Anzueto, cupping.

The IMLVT is among the most ambitious research trials ever undertaken in coffee, bringing together partners in 23 different countries and counting, with new countries joining each year. No program in the coffee industry has achieved this level of coordination among producing countries; each country participating in the IMLVT executes the trial collaboratively with WCR, assigning researchers to install, monitor, and maintain the research plots. Trials are hosted and collaboratively managed by our research partners—typically national coffee research institutes, but also private sector partners.