BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Throughout the world, coffee has become a widely consumed beverage. Its industry is worth billions because coffee is a highly demanded commodity enjoyed by many in different ways.
Farmers and entrepreneurs everywhere are recognizing how profitable coffee production is which is why they started growing coffee varieties such as arabica, liberica, robusta, and excelsa.
It usually takes three to four years before newly planted coffee trees bear fruit but afterward, their annual harvesting season can last up to two to three months with the trees yielding approximately 2,000 coffee cherries, or 4,000 coffee beans.
But while the coffee trees are still growing, farmers need to take proper care of their trees to make sure that they grow healthy. And one way that they can do that is by adding fertilizer to the soil.
Part 1 tackled the propagation methods of coffee plants. But this article will focus on how to maintain coffee trees as they grow through proper fertilization and pest and disease management.
How to fertilize growing coffee trees
Whether organic or inorganic, coffee plants will perform better if given fertilizer. But there’s a standard that farmers should follow when fertilizing their plants because the fertilizer requirement for trees that have fruits differs from the ones that don’t.
For non-bearing coffee trees, which are in their first to the second year, they need to be fertilized with Diammonium phosphate, which has a ratio of 18-46-0. This provides full phosphorus nutrition throughout the plants’ growth and development.
Throughout the year, there should be four fertilizer applications done at separate times. The first application should only be 15 grams per tree, the second requires 30 grams, the third 50 grams, and the last application should be done with 60 grams of fertilizer per tree.
As for organic fertilizer, each coffee tree needs to be given one kilogram for proper growth and development twice a year.
But for trees with fruits, more fertilizer is needed. If using an input with a ratio of 18-46-0 for three applications separated throughout the year. The first and second application needs 29 grams per tree while the third requires 34 grams.
The best time to apply fertilizer is during the start and end of the rainy season. Fertilizer should be applied at the edge of the trees’ canopies either through holing or the band method where farmers will dig a hole around the soil that’s five centimeters deep.
Common coffee pests and how to control them
There are four common pests that frequent coffee trees. These are coffee berry borer, stem borer, scale insects, and ants.
Coffee berry borers are insects that bore holes into young berries to lay their eggs. The eggs develop into larvae that destroy the berries. To keep these from attacking coffee trees, farmers need to secure a clean harvest and culture, apply insecticide, and rapidly dry infected beans.
Another coffee pest is the stem borer. These are long-horned beetles that bore into the bark of coffee trees, damaging the main stem and roots. Fortunately, these can be easily controlled with insecticide, removal and burning of infected trees, and sanitation.
Scale insects, parasitic insects that suck sap by puncturing the trees, also frequent coffee trees. But these can be easily removed by scrubbing the affected parts with detergent.
Lastly, ants are also seen as coffee tree pests. Although they have no direct effect on the tree, they make it unpleasant for coffee pickers and other workers to be near affected trees. Control ants by applying malathion.
Diseases of coffee trees and how to prevent them
Pests aren’t the only harmful things that coffee farmers should worry about. Diseases like anthracnose and rust are also something to watch out for since they could hamper the proper growth of coffee trees.
Anthracnose refers to the broken spots on leaves and dark brown sunken spots on green berries. It attacks weak trees that are poorly managed. To control this, farmers need to prune and burn the parts with infected berries, spray copper fungicide, and apply fertilizer.
But the most prevalent and destructive disease in coffee is rust. Back in 1891, it almost wiped out the flourishing coffee industry. Controlling this requires farmers to thoroughly screen and quarantine imported varieties, select suitable resistant varieties or strains, and practice good cultivation and proper fertilization. But if these don’t seem to be working, then they can resort to chemical application.
Growing quality coffee is important for farmers since consumers look for a standard in their energy-boosting beverage. It may require more work than usual but the returns are well worth it.