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Coffee varieties of mesoamerica and the caribbean

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Next-Generation F1 Hybrid Varieties

Combining traditional methods with big data
Centroamerica f1

An improved F1 hybrid called Centroamerica (T5296, a Sarchimor x Rume Sudan), which has yields as much as twice as high as traditional varieties, with very good quality potential.

I am 100% certain that the future of coffee depends on hybrids’ success. - William Solano, CATIE

The problem

Because coffee is a tree crop that takes 2-3 years to mature, breeding new varieties of coffee has traditionally been a slow process. It can take 20 or more years to bring a new variety to market.

But we know that new varieties are needed, and needed quickly, to meet the challenges of the 21st century—changing weather patterns, increased temperatures, and new disease and insect prevalence. The land available to grow Arabica coffee is also expected to dramatically shrink in coming years, meaning coffee trees must become more productive to meet increasing demand. Without better planting material, the coffee industry faces a potentially disastrous decline in Arabica supply in the coming decades. In it's breeding program, WCR is focusing on a new class of coffee varieties, called F1 hybrids, to address these pressing challenges.

The solution

While F1 hybrid varieties are still relatively new to coffee farmers and industry, it is difficult to imagine a future without them. The “low-hanging fruit” in coffee breeding is the concept of heterosis, or hybrid vigor. One of the key distinguishing features of F1 hybrids is their high vigor, which can translate into everything from higher yields, to wider climate adaptability, to resilience in the face of stresses like disease (e.g., coffee rust), frost, or drought.

In new regional breeding hubs, World Coffee Research and its partners are preparing the next generation of F1 hybrid varieties, aiming to release locally adapted selections for farmers in Central America and Africa by 2025.  Researchers will evaluate and select the best-performing crosses, focusing on key traits of interest identified by local breeders and experts. Priority targets include:

  • Disease resistance/tolerance
  • Aromatic quality
  • Productivity
  • Traits linked to climate resilience
  • Traits linked to harvest (e.g., uniform ripening time)
  • Traits linked to production efficiency (e.g., dwarf/tall)
  • Tolerance to abiotic stresses (drought, heat, light, cold)
  • Fertilizer efficiency

Currently in Central America, three groups of crosses (totaling 54 crosses) have been made. Plants from the first wave of 46 crosses were transferred to the field in 2017, where they are being observed for performance, including rust resistance and drought tolerance. The plants are also being shipped to Rwanda for testing in East Africa. More crosses will be made through regional breeding hubs in Central America and Africa in the coming years.

  • 54: Number of hybrid crosses made to date
  • 4: Number of complex hybrid crosses (cross made between an F1 hybrid and an inbred line) made to date
  • 3: Number of countries where new hybrids are being tested in the field (El Salvador, Costa Rica, Rwanda)
  • 3: Number of different altitudes (900, 1,100 and 1,500 m) where hybrids are being grown for eventual cup quality evaluations in 2019

WCR's F1 hybrids program experienced a milestone in 2019 with our first production harvest (see the update "Hybrid harvest" below for more information). The yield and quality data from the 2019 harvest will allow us to remove low-performing candidates from the trial. But by itself, data from the first harvest is not a reliable predictor of lifetime performance, so the plants will be carefully monitored through three to four more harvests, and compared with data from the same plants located in different environments, to ensure that performance is consistent before final selections are made on which varieties can be released for farmers through a collaborative breeding hub serving Central America.

Timeline 2

 A timeline of WCR's F1 hybrid varieties program.

Impact

Using new breeding tools like the WCR Core Collection and Arabica genetic distance matrix, we can accelerate the creation of high-performing F1 hybrid varieties for farmers. WCR will be able to test F1 crosses initiated in 2015 through 2018-2020, bringing better varieties to market in as few as five years. 

Learn more about F1 hybrids

What does "F1 hybrid" mean?  F1 hybrid varieties are created by crossing genetically distinct parents (for example, a wild Ethiopian variety x Caturra). The offspring of the cross are first-generation (F1) hybrids. F1 hybrids are notable because they tend to have significantly higher production than non-hybrids, while maintaining high cup quality and disease resistance.


Project Updates

  • Lead

    Since its inception in 2012, World Coffee Research has worked to establish dozens of trial sites around the world testing both existing and new varieties in different environments, both on research stations and in farmers’ fields. Many of those sites are starting to produce mature harvests, meaning the trees are ready to be evaluated for performance in the field—and in the cup. In 2019, one trial site testing new variety candidates in Costa Rica produced its first production harvest. WCR invited 20 industry cuppers to give feedback on the coffees.

    Read the Whole Story
  • Hybrid harvest

    Date: 12.10.19
    F1 Hybrid Photo Essay_Page_05.jpg

    In 2019, the Flor Amarilla F1 breeding program reached an exciting milestone: its first production harvest. While we have carefully monitored and measured each plants' growth since it arrived in the field, the production of cherries means that we can now gather two of the most important pieces of data on each cross: yield and cup quality.

    Read the Whole Story
  • F1 Hybrids Explainer

    Date: 9.9.19
    Root structure

    While these varieties are still relatively new to coffee farmers and industry, it is difficult to imagine a future without them. No varieties in the past have been able to combine traits that matter to both farmers and consumers in quite the same way. F1 hybrids will be key to helping coffee producers remain profitable and resilient in the face of climate change.

    Read the Whole Story
  • F1 experimental Costa Rica

    In 2017 and 2018, World Coffee Research has created two new groups of F1 hybrid crosses for evaluation in Central America, bringing the total number of F1 hybrids in evaluation to 66. The latest group is made up of so-called "three-way hybrids," in which the mother plant of a new f1 hybrid cross is itself an F1 hybrid.

    Read the Whole Story
  • F1s at Flor Amarilla

    In 2016, we established trials of 46 new F1 hybrids, derived from crosses between 8 wild Arabicas in the WCR Core Collection and three rust-resistant Sarchimor varieties (Obatá, Marsellesa and IAPAR 59) as well as Geisha.

    Read the Whole Story
  • Location: Peru, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Rwanda
  • Leaders: Benoit Bertrand
  • Partners: CIRAD, PROMECAFE, CATIE, J. Hill y Cia, Finca Acquaries, Fundacion Aggie de El Salvador, RAB
  • Timeline: 2015-2020