10th Annual conference & Exhibition
Unique Agricultural Formulas and Their Benefits:
By Richard S. Hornack
Why Should We Change From Our Present Practices?
Arabica coffee can be grown where the dry seasons are not too long and the soil has a high water retention capacity, arabica coffee could, theoretically, be grown without irrigation where the average total rainfall is at least 1100 mm. In practice, poor rainfall distribution or adverse soil conditions create a high risk where the annual rainfall is less than 1300 mm.
Similar conditions apply to robusta coffee, but it is more suited to lower altitudes
where temperatures are higher, however, the total water requirement will be higher.
Coffee is growing on soils varying from extremely acid (pH below 4.0) to slightly
alkaline (pH up to 8.0). Neither one of these extremes are suitable for economic high
production. A slightly acid soil is preferred; most written work suggest a pH of 5.2 to
6.2 for arabica. Robusta is more tolerant of neutral and slightly alkaline soils. Robusta
planted in the high pH soil gave a crop yield, when averaged over the first five harvests,
yielded 47.2% greater than the yield from coffee planted in the lower pH soil.
The coffee crop (green beans) includes many mineral nutrients which are removed from the plantation system. Catani and Moraes (1958) estimated that the major nutrients removed in 1 ton of arabica green beans amounted to 34.0 kg N, 5.2 kg P2O5 and 47.8 kg K2O. However the crop is harvested as cherry which includes pulp and parchment in addition to the beans. In many cases these are not returned to the field so that the nutrients are lost to the system. Using data published by Ripperton, Goto and Pahau (1935:55) the nutrients removed in the bean, pulp and parchment equal to 1 ton of arabica green beans are as follows:
These results of course vary with the type of soil and the amount of fertilizer that is used. Even the pruned stems which are often used as firewood causes heavy loss of nutrients. There are similar losses for robusta without returning the pulp and parchment.
The root system of coffee explores the soil extensively to a depth of at least 3 meters in suitable soil (Nutman, 1933). DeCastro (1960) reported that the proportion of roots in all sizes below 30 cm depth in the soil, increased with the age of the tree. Of the roots of seven-year-old trees, 61% were at depths below 30 cm. Cuenca, Aranguren and Herrera (1983) investigated root systems of arabica coffee variety mundo novo planted 25 years earlier under shade and managed without fertilizers. Of the fine roots which are mainly responsible for absorption of nutrients, 33% were found in the top 10 cm of soil, which consisted largely of litter. Of the fine roots, 73% were in the upper 30 cm of the soil. The main purpose of the deeper roots is to absorb water. It is therefore extremely important that your soil structure is porous and has good tilth.
In the absence of fertilizer applications the nutrient reserves in the soil will be quickly used up. Coffee is a long-lived crop and a significant reduction in the amounts of nutrients available in the soil occurs over every ten years. Arabica coffee is prone to overbearing as it tries to survive, causing the plants to deplete the nutrient supply within the tree which restricts vegetative growth, thereby reducing the number of buds available to flower the following year. Vegetative shoots often die back when the nutrients from the leaves and stems have been transferred to the fruit.
When you add an application of fertilizer and improve the nutrient supply you can reverse this overbearing of the arabica plants. Pereira and Jones (1954) reported a significant reduction in die-back following an application of fertilizer.
The degree of shading interacts with nutrition. Beside the actual effect of different light intensities on the coffee trees. Shade trees supply nutrients in leaf fall and leguminous trees will make a contribution by fixation of atmospheric nitrogen. Shading affects soil conditions because the organic material decomposes more slowly at lower temperatures. The net effect of shade, is that unfertilized shaded trees will yield at a higher level than unfertilized unshaded trees. However, unshaded trees have a higher rate of response to fertilizer so that the highest yields are produced by heavily fertilized unshaded coffee.
The unique new product that has been designed specifically to meet these problems of soil and nutrient absorption that are so prevalent in the coffee growing industry. We have used similar technology in the agriculture industry since 1992 with great success and feel confident that we can prove to be just as successful in the coffee industry. We understand the importance of being able to increase production while still preserving the health of the trees and the plantation at an affordable cost.
ReferencesBlore, T.W.D. (1966) "Further studies of water use by irrigated and unirrigated arabica coffee in Kenya", Journal of Agricultural Science (Cambridge), 67, 145-54
Huxley, P.A. (1967) "The effects of artificial shading on some growth characteristics of arabica and robusta coffee seedlings. 1. The effect of shading on dry weight, leaf area and derived growth data". Journal of Applied Ecology, 4, 291-308
Kumar, D. (1982) "Primary investigations into some flowering abnormalities of coffee in Kenya". Kenya Coffee, 47, 16-24
Nutman,F.J. (1933) The root system of coffee arabica. Part 1. Root systems in tropical soils in British East Africa", Empire Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 1, 271-84
Robinson, J.B.D. and Hosegood, P.A. (1965) "Effects of organic mulch on fertility of a latosolic coffee soil in Kenya", Experimental Agriculture, 1, 67-80
Wallis, J.A.N. (1963) "Water use by irrigated coffee in Kenya", Agriculture Science, 60, 381-8
Altmann, P.L. and Dittmer, D.S. (1968) Biology Data Book. Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology, Washington DC., USA, pp 213-14
Barros, R.S. and Maestri, M. (1974) "Influencia dos factores climaticos sobre a periodicidade de crecimento vegetativio do café" (Coffea arabica L.), Revista Ceres, 21, 268-79
Barros, R.S. , Maestri, M. and Coons, M.P. (1978) "The physiology of flowering in coffee: a review", Journal of Coffee Research, 8, 29-73
Browning, G. and Fisher, N.M. (1975) "Shoot growth in coffee arabica L. II. Growth flushing stimulated by irrigation", Journal of Horticultural Science, 50, 207-18
Cannell, M.G.R. (1971c) "Seasonal patterns of growth and development of Arabica coffee in Kenya. Part III. Changes in the photosynthetic capacity of the trees" Kenya Coffee, 36, 68-74
Cannell, M.G.R. (1971d) "Use of gibberellic acid to change the seasonal fruiting pattern of Arabica coffee" in Kenya, Journal of Horticultural Science, 46, 289-98
Cannell, M.G.R. (1972a) "Photoperiodic response of mature trees of Arabica coffee", Turrialba, 22, 198-206
Cannell, M.G.R. (1972b) "Primary production, fruit production and assimilate partition in Arabica coffee: a review" in Coffee Research Foundation, Kenya, Annual Report for 1971/72, pp 6-24
Trojer, H. (1968) "The phenological equator for coffee planting in Columbia". UNESCO Natural Resources Research, 7, 107-13 UNESCO, Paris
Vasudeva, N. and Ramaiah, P.K. (1979) "The growth and development of Arabica coffee under South Indian conditions", Journal of Coffee Research, 9, 35-45
Cuenca, G., Aranguren, J. and Herrera, R. (1983) "Root growth and litter decomposition in a coffee plantation under shade trees", Plant and Soil, 71, 477-86
Pereira, H.C, and Jones, P.A. (1954) "Field responses by Kenya coffee to fertilisers, manures and mulches", Empire Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 22, 23-36
Ripperton, J.E., and Goto, Y.B. and Pahau, R.K. (1935) "Coffee cultural practices in the Kona district of Hawaii", Bulletin of Hawaii Agriculture Experiment Station. No. 75
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