The catalog is available for free in English and Spanish (“Las Variedades de Café de Mesoamérica y el Caribe”) either in a 47-page printed version (available for download here) or through an interactive website. The nonprofit WCR also plans to distribute the catalog to thousands of coffee farmers through national coffee institutions, exporters, cooperatives and nurseries that supply coffee plants and seeds.
The variety catalog project came about following the leaf rust outbreak that began in 2012 and is still taking a toll today on farms throughout regions of Central America, South America and Mexico. WCR estimates that the outbreak affected some 600,000 acres of coffee farmland in Central America alone, requiring replanting by some 300,000 farmers.
“Because the life of a coffee tree is 20-30 years, if a farmer makes a poor decision on variety, the cumulative loss can be huge,” WCR said in an announcement of the catalog, which was presented by WCR representatives today in the lead up to World of Coffee Dublin. “Home gardeners in the U.S. can order vegetables or flowers from seed catalogs that include details like germination times, expected yield, and recommended fertilization. Unbelievably, coffee farmers — who earn their livelihoods based on the decisions they make about what kind of coffee to plant — don’t have a similar resource. The lack of a comprehensive, up-to-date coffee catalog puts farmers at risk.”
The catalog identifies 19 variables for each of the 33 coffee varieties explored. Variables include quality potential at high altitude, yield potential, plant stature, optimal altitude, leaf rust susceptibility, CBD susceptibility, nematode susceptibility, bean size, leaf tip color, and many more. Each variable includes a description, while many also have graphic elements for quick reference.
The catalog also ties in with WCR’s recent “World Coffee Research Verified” program, a kind of certification process for nurseries offering seeds and seedlings designed to ensure healthy plants, transparency and quality information-sharing with farmers.
The bulk of the catalog is devoted to individual varieties, providing brief overviews of the variety’s reputation in terms of quality, ideal growing conditions or disease susceptibility, with descriptions and/or rankings for each of the 19 variables. The same information plus additional information about each variety’s history is available through the interactive website, which also allows users to browse by variety or a combination of variables.
The result is a visually coherent and remarkably easy-to-use resource, the likes of which have not existed prior to now outside of the private sector, where individual seed companies or nurseries may offer what are essentially product guides.
The $70,000 project to create the variety catalog was financially supported by USAID and the multinational coffee research agency PROMECAFE, with partners including Anacafé, CIB, Codocafé, ICAFE, IHCAFE, INTA, JNC, MIDA, PROCAFE and Texas A&M University.