As the climate changes and new challenges arise for coffee farmers, plant breeders are hard at work breeding disease resistance and higher yield. Nestlé plant scientists have bred Robusta varieties that are resistant to coffee leaf rust and drought resistant.
The drought-resistant varieties are being tested in Central Africa where coffee yields remain high despite moderate-high levels of water stress. As climate change warms regions around the world, these drought-resistant varieties may help to keep coffee farmers in business.
Coffee leaf rust is a common disease infecting plantations throughout the Americas. It is a devastating disease but Nestlé plant scientists have bred Robusta varieties that are more resistant to the fungus.
Another feature of the new Robusta varieties is the higher yield per plant which reduces the amount of land, fertilizer, and fuel needed to grow and harvest the coffee. The last big hurdle that plant breeders routinely face is making sure the plant still produces great tasting coffee. It is very common for plants to be superstars against disease but have lacklustre flavour. This is true with coffee to apples to corn.
Hopefully, the flavour of the new Robusta varieties hasn’t taken a hit as a result of higher yield and disease/drought resistance. If all goes well, this could be a great resource for coffee farmers worried about climate change.