Rust: A history

In the midst of one of the worst human pandemics in a century, join us as we take a deep dive into coffee's most notorious disease -- coffee leaf rust. In a webinar with historian Stuart McCook, we will explore how plant epidemics, like people epidemics, are not created by the disease alone. To become an epidemic you need three things: The disease, a susceptible host, and the right environmental conditions (i.e., settings that enable the spread of disease).

There have been multiple epidemic outbreaks of coffee leaf rust over the last 200 years, including most recently in 2012-2014 in Central America. Histories of coffee leaf rust often, rightly, focus on its the human and economic costs. Since the initial outbreak in the mid-nineteenth century, though, rust has also transformed the global coffee industry in other, less obvious ways. This talk will explore how rust has helped shape today’s global coffee industry, and may continue to do so in the future.

World Coffee Research has, since its inception in 2012, focused on finding solutions to assist farmers cope with the challenge of coffee leaf rust as part of its program of applied research. We are excited to welcome Dr. McCook to give us context for understanding the difficulties posed by rust and what we can learn from legacy solutions.