Coffee farmers typically have very few choices about which varieties are available for them to plant. Their choices are limited by forces beyond their control—historical accident and colonial history on the one hand, and whether their country has a tradition of coffee research and development on the other. These constraints mean that coffee producers often plant seeds that are susceptible to disease or don’t perform optimally in their area, leaving them doubly vulnerable. Until now no comprehensive effort had ever been made to locate the best-quality coffee varieties from around the globe and make them available to producers in different countries.
31 varieties from around the world. 28 test plots in 16 countries. 50,000 plantlets.
World Coffee Research has gathered 31 top-performing coffee varieties from 11 suppliers around the world. The varieties—most of which have never been tested on a broad basis—are distributed to coffee growing countries for long-term evaluation on research plots.
The IMLVT helps countries overcome historical and institutional barriers to accessing the world’s best existing planting material. It generates critical knowledge for coffee producers and agronomists about how varieties respond to different soil and climatic conditions – including extreme environments with high temperatures and long dry periods, which mimic the changing climate coffee growers are seeing in coffee-producing countries around the world. The trial will allow researchers to see how varieties perform under climates predicted for 30 and 50 years into the future and provides the largest global dataset ever created for deciphering genotype x environment interaction in coffee. A follow-on study will investigate the impact of the GxE interaction on cup quality and chemistry.
Researchers will identify key traits that have allowed different varieties to adapt to different environmental conditions, which will lay the groundwork for major advances in coffee breeding, climate adaptation strategies, and future research.
The trial also builds essential capacity within producing countries to conduct coffee research and monitor disease movement and climate trends. All participating countries agree to install, maintain, and monitor the plots (on average 1-3 per country). On each plot, a comprehensive list of variables is measured using standardized protocols developed by WCR. Each country monitors how the different varieties perform under local conditions. The best-performing varieties can then be selected, multiplied and distributed to producers to increase supplies of quality coffee for those countries.
Never before has a global variety exchange taken place on this scale in the coffee industry. Never before have most countries had access to so many different varieties. Farmers around the world—as well as coffee producing countries and the industry as a whole— will benefit from access to new varieties with better productivity, disease tolerance and/or cup quality. This will result in widespread production and quality increases in as little as 5 years, and contributing to more sustainable farmer livelihoods and a stronger coffee sector.
“WCR has now matured a unique network to gather global data
on varieties and performance in such a huge number of different
environments. It has never been done in the centuries of the
existence of the coffee market. This legacy will last forever.”
—Giacomo Celi, Director of Sustainability, Mercon