New study predicts Arabica hybrids are the answer to climate change


Results from the BREEDing Coffee for AgroForestry Systems (BREEDCAFS) project show that new Arabica hybrids are 10 to 20 per cent more productive than traditional varieties.

For the past 20 years, French agricultural research and cooperation organisation CIRAD and its Swiss partner ECOM have been working to develop productive Arabica hybrids suitable for growing under shade and more resilient to environmental stresses.

To determine their performance in the field and the quality of the coffee produced, those hybrid varieties have been tested on a broad scale as part of the BREEDCAFS project, coordinated by CIRAD.

“We are the first people to have bred coffee varieties with a view to planting them in agroforestry systems,” says Benoît Bertrand, breeder at CIRAD and coordinator of the BREEDCAFS project.

CIRAD’s researchers believe that growing coffee, a shade-living shrub that originated in the forests of Ethiopia, under trees, is the best way of adapting production to climate change.

Over four years, the project teams characterised the adaptation mechanisms that allowed these new varieties to cope with various stress factors, including high temperatures, drought, shade, poor nitrogen nutrition, and more.

These experiments were conducted in greenhouse climate chambers in Denmark, France and Portugal, directly on more than 100 farms in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Vietnam and Cameroon.

They served to build a highly detailed characterisation of these F1 hybrids, called Starmaya, CentroAmericano, Evaluna and Mundo Maya.

Their degree of resistance to diseases makes it possible to reduce pesticide use by 15 to 20 per cent, and they retain coffee quality.

“In short, they are an all-round success,” says Hervé Étienne, a CIRAD researcher and co-coordinator of BREEDCAFS.

Researchers predict that if these hybrids are rolled out rapidly, the area planted with coffee in agroforestry systems could expand by 30 to 40 per cent within the next decade.

“In view of the success of these varieties in the four countries covered by the project, neighbouring countries across the three continents will massively adopt the new F1 hybrids and agroforestry systems,” says Benoît.

For more information, visit the CIRAD website.

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