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.
World Coffee Research has gathered 35 top-performing coffee varieties from 11 suppliers around the world and replicated them in sterile in-vitro cultures at the Agristarts phytosanitary lab in Florida. The varieties—most of which have never been tested on a broad basis—are being distributed to 23 coffee growing countries for planting on test plots.
On each plot, an exhaustive list of variables about the plot and the performance of each plant will be measured—including plant vigor, productivity, coffee leaf rust and other disease and pest incidence, bean characteristics, bean chemistry, and final cup quality. Each country can monitor 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.
The IMLVT represents a coffee industry first. Never before has a global variety exchange taken place on this scale in the coffee industry. Never before have most countries had in their possession so many different varieties. In addition, more information is being made available to guide farmers about the best variety for their specifc needs, with the goal of improving profitability. 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.
In addition, the trial will serve as a platform to monitor disease movement and levels, interaction between environmental factors and quality, and climate trends.