No. 34

Cenicafé strengthens durability of rust resistance of coffee varieties

March, 2018


Cenicafé strengthens durability of rust resistance of coffee varieties

As a result of the genetic diversity strategy of the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé), Colombia has managed to strengthen its coffee varieties’ long-term resistance to diseases such as rust and the Coffee Berry Disease (CBD).

Development and delivery to producers of new coffee varieties is an imperative for Cenicafé given the tendency of rust to seek to break the resistances achieved so far, as recent cases in Honduras and Brazil confirm.

In 2017 the Honduran Coffee Institute acknowledged that the Lempira 98 variety had lost rust resistance, and in Brazil the Catucaí variety, one of their resistant flagship varieties, has already been affected by the disease due to the particular climate conditions.

For Hernando Duque, Chief Technical Officer of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), this context and local reality were an alert, so they immediately started an analysis process for recomposition of the Castillo® variety, obtaining three varieties with genetic rust resistance depending on climate patterns of the Colombian coffee regions, specifically the North, Center and South zones.

Each of the Castillo® zonal varieties, North, Center and South, are made up of 11 progenies or rust-resistant materials, the result of crossbreeding Caturra and the Timor Hybrid 1343, based on genealogical and phylogenetic diversity to achieve greater resistance durability. Tools of the coffee genome studies conducted by Cenicafé were used.

Varieties for each coffee region
The North Zone Castillo® variety is recommended for the departments of the country’s northeast (La Guajira, Magdalena, Cesar, Norte de Santander), as well as Arauca, Casanare, Meta, Caquetá, and Putumayo, north of Santander and Antioquia, southeast of Cundinamarca and east of Boyacá.

The influence area of the Center Zone Castillo® variety is the south of the departments of Santander and Antioquia, north of Cundinamarca, west of Boyacá, Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Quindío, Risaralda, Caldas, southwest of Cundinamarca, and north of Huila and Cauca, while South Zone Castillo® is adapted to conditions of Nariño and south of the departments of Cauca and Huila.

The Cenicafé 1 and Tabi varieties are recommended for the whole coffee country because of their wide adaptation.

“Colombia’s coffee farming conditions in general, due to its geographical location and rainfall patterns, are favorable for rust outbreaks, also considering that this disease tends to change permanently, generating new races. In this sense, what we do is to be forward-thinking and act proactively to ensure durability of resistance of the Castillo® varieties for the benefit of Colombian coffee growers,” Duque explained.

Cenicafé’s work also enables new varieties to keep agronomic attributes, such as productivity, organoleptic quality and an adequate proportion of supreme beans, which are common to all varieties produced by the Center.

Genetic diversity, at the service of farmers
One of the great coffee research achievements has to do with the Genetic Diversity Program, implemented by Cenicafé since 1967. In Central America, India, Kenya and Brazil, the strategy for development of coffee varieties is based on selection and use of a single progeny, resulting in very uniform populations genetically, known in the scientific world as mono-lineal varieties.

This uniformity is associated with rapid loss of resistance to diseases such as rust. In these cases, when a new pathogen strain able to attack variety arises, all the plants lose resistance.

The FNC, in response to this problem, adopted genetic diversity as a strategy for durable resistance: unlike other countries, in Colombia the development of rust resistant varieties is multilineal or of compound varieties.

These are developed by mixing seed of different progenies of similar appearance and comparable agronomic features, but with different factors or genes for rust resistance.

The Colombia variety, released in 1983, is proof of effectiveness of this durable rust resistance strategy implemented by the FNC, as it is still resistant after over 30 years of having been delivered to coffee growers and planted commercially.

In addition, rust continues to be monitored nationwide as well as appearance of strains infecting materials of different resistance degrees.

You are invited to learn more about our coffee family and our products, visiting the COLOMBIAN COFFEE INSIGHTS sections on the top of this page.