SUSTAINABILITY: COFFEE FARMERS PRODUCING THEIR OWN SEEDS
Indeed, farmers could go to buy seed with certification from private or public sources, a product of years or decades of research selecting coffee varieties with potential tolerance to diseases or high productivity. Acquiring coffee seeds with certification would allow farmers to improve the traceability of the coffee that they grow on the farm as well.
But sometimes, certified coffee seeds aren’t available or may not be suitable for the environmental conditions where the farmer is living, therefore farmers could make use of the coffee seeds collected from their own or nearby plantations while preparing their plant nurseries to renovate their plantation or increase the cultivated area in the farm.
Why should you consider making space in your plans for local seed? Using locally available seeds would allow farmers :
· Preserve traditional varieties that are adapted to their region: Sometimes, popular varieties from another country may not be suitable for your region.
· Reduce dependence on foreign sources: New varieties may take a while to arrive in your region and you simply can’t afford to wait for that long before renovating your plantation.
· Reproduce plants within your plantation which have observed favourable characteristics
· Create a “back-up” stock of plants (reserve nursery) for replacing damaged adult plants in the field or forming new plantations
· Have quality seed for sharing with your neighbours
· Promote your farm as a particular “Origin”: Bring attention from potential buyers by offering coffee from your varieties and cultural heritage.
How to select the coffee seeds? You need patience and consistency.
1) Observe your plants: Identify healthy individuals, without signs of pest or disease damage, with a healthy-looking, observable production.
Train your eye to observe the absence of Roya (leaf rust disease) in order to avoid collecting seeds from plants that are vulnerable. Sometimes you may find potential tolerance to Roya within “susceptible” plantations but only time would verify that.
2) Go and collect the well developed and mature cherries from the central part of the branches located in the middle part of the plant.
3) Soak the cherries in buckets for 1 day and then manually remove the pulp of the cherries, wash the seeds and let them dry under shade in a fresh room over a clean surface for a couple of days.
4) Proceed to select the seeds, removing those with abnormal shape, peaberry or damaged ones.
5) Weigh the seeds into 1 kilo paper or cloth bags for safe storage and use within 5 months. After that time, the vitality of the seed decreases and the germination rate would be lower.
Don’t forget to note the harvesting date, take a picture of the mother plant and write the name of the variety or its local name. Writing the details and characteristics of the varieties of the seeds that you collected will allow you to offer better information for your potential buyers and customers.
Coffee and other crops are suffering the loss of genetic diversity; due to the massive single-use of popular varieties, leaving behind traditional ones. On the other hand, pests and diseases could take advantage of such reduced genetic diversity in coffee and cause heavy damage among plantations.
For Inside Job Coffee, we advise farmers to learn how to identify healthy coffee plants within their plantations and venture to pick quality seeds from them and start a small nursery of “native” varieties; over time this could lead to enrich the genetic diversity of coffee in your regions and raise a protective wall against the negative side of homogeneous in crops.