Work undertaken by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation suggests a new form of high-yielding Arabica could be suitable for cultivation in high temperatures in Robusta-growing regions such as Rondônia.
If planted widely in Rondônia, Catucaí Amarelo 2SL, which was originally developed by Procafé Foundation, could add significantly to the volume of Arabica produced in Brazil.
The announcement comes at a time when the international price for Arabica is languishing at a level that does not cover the cost of production, except for farmers with very low costs, such as some in Brazil who grow coffee on a large scale and are able to mechanize production. Conditions in Rondônia are suited to mechanization so the impact of a new source of Arabica in Brazil could be significant. It has large areas of mainly flat land that are suitable for mechanized harvesting, which will reduce production costs should the new coffee be introduced.
Embrapa Rondônia said Catucaí Amarelo 2SL could be ‘very productive’ in the Amazon region of the country. It has already been demonstrated to be suitable for use in the south of Minas Gerais, but genetic analysis by Embrapa has proved its potential at high temperatures, making it possible to extend planting to Rondônia, in areas above 300m with average temperatures close to 26°C.
Embrapa selected Catucaí Amarelo 2SL from 57 Arabica coffee genotypes it evaluated and found that it was capable of producing more than 35 bags per hectare in high temperatures such as those in Rondônia, significantly above the Brazilian average of 30 bags.
The research body said Catucaí Amarelo 2SL also cups well. The quality of the coffee it produces exceeded expectations, scoring more than 80 on the Specialty Coffee Association’s scale of 0 to 100, placing it in the category of speciality coffee.
Rondônia is the fifth largest coffee producer in Brazil and the second largest of the canephora species (Conilon and Robusta). Around 20,000 producers in the region grow Conilon and Robusta.
Embrapa researcher Alexsandro Teixeira said Catucaí Amarelo 2SL’s suitability for cultivation in Rondônia was “strategic” because it meets demand from farmers in the Amazon region for this type of coffee, which they would like to use for the production of specialty coffee and in blends combining Arabica and Canephora.
C&CI correspondent Dr Peter Baker said the announcement was a potentially important breakthrough. “One of the main problems of high temperatures is accelerated maturation and hence low quality and unfilled beans,” he explained. This would enable grower in Rondônia to go for high input, high output, highly mechanized production with lots of space and irrigation too. “This could kill off the opposition for bulk arabicas for blends,” he said.
Embrapa has long been seeking a high yielding Arabica that was suitable for high temperature cultivation. Most Arabica coffee cultivars are adapted to cultivation at high altitude and in areas with lower average temperatures, in contrast to conditions in the Amazon, where cultivation takes place at low altitude low altitudes, and where average temperature is higher.
Temperatures above 23 degrees C cause accelerated growth and development of coffee cherries which adversely affects bean development and quality. A combination of high temperatures and high levels of humidity during flowering can also adversely affect yields.
Photo: Carlos Carvalho