Multi-million euro research project launched to improve agroforestry coffee production
Agroforestry is a promising land management practise for climate change adaption of coffee plantations. However, existing coffee varieties are developed for large-scale conventional systems and not suitable for small-scale agroforestry. The French agricultural research organisation CIRAD is leading a new EU-funded research project to develop new hybrid varieties better suited for intercropping with shade trees.
More than 60 % of the plantations with Arabica coffee plants worldwide are small-scale agroforestry systems but very few of the smallholder farmers have access to improved coffee breeds resistant to diseases and draught. These improved breeds are also developed for intensive large-scale plantations and require large amount of fertilizers and other expensive inputs. The research project BREEDCAFS, with a budget of 4.5 million euros aims to develop, test and disseminate new breeds to better fit the management practises and the economy of small-scale farmers. By using new technologies the project aims to gain a better understanding of the coffee physiology and map important genes for climate resilience and high production in agroforestry systems.
The project has 20 partners from academia, professional organisations and the coffee industry. It will run between 2017 and 2021 with extensive field tests of new varieties in Montpellier, Lisbon, Nicaragua, Cameroon and Viet Nam. The new breeds will be subjected to a variety of different light and water regimes, temperatures and CO2-scenarios. The most promising and productive varieties will be tested in agroforestry clusters in Viet Nam, Cameroon and Nicaragua. The area of the cluster in Nicaragua covers an astonishing 1300 ha, operated by 30 medium- and 50 small-scale farmers.
Apart from actually developing new breeds, the programme also aims to improve processes and strategies of the coffee industry and other stakeholders to develop and screen new coffee varieties to suit agroforestry systems. This ensures the sustainability of the research project and that coffee farmers and roosters around the world will be better equipped to face climate change.
Read more about the project on the website of World Coffee Research (WCR), one of the partners in the project, or at the website of CIRAD.
Picture credit: Linus Karlsson