Introduced in the Philippines in 1740, coffee remains one of the country’s leading export commodities. And as long as there are coffee drinkers, coffee culture will remain a profitable business venture.
There are four known coffee varieties; Arabica, Liberica, Excelsa and Robusta. Arabica is considered the best quality coffee because of its excellent flavor and aroma. The shrub of this variety is smaller than Liberica and Robusta, with lateral branches opposite in arrangement, horizontal and in pairs. Its leaves are fragrant, white creamy in color. Berries are oblong-ellipsoid; they are green in color, and later turn red or yellow when ripe. The size of the seeds range from 8.5 to 12.7 cm long.
Arabica is an early bearer. Two years after transplanting, it produces berries. Generally, a full grown and well-managed one-hectare farm can yield 1,000 kg of green beans. This variety, however, is susceptible to coffee rust.
Liberica. Commonly called kapeng barako, this variety produces the biggest berry among commercial groups. It is noted for its very strong taste and color. Trees are upright with straight trunks. Its leaves are thicker than Excelsa and twice as long as Arabica and leathery in texture. Berries are round, borne singly or in small cluster with thick and firm pulp. Liberica is a drought-tolerant variety whose bearing age is 4 to 5 years from transplanting. A one-hectare farm planted to Liberica can yield about 1,000 kg per year.
Excelsa. This variety is similar to Liberica except for its smoother, thinner and more rounded leaves with smooth edge. The young leaves are usually shiny with bronze-violet color. Flowers are large and white with 4 to 6 petals. The berries are ovoid and a little compressed having a flat form. They are borne in heavy cluster and usually bigger than Arabica but smaller than Liberica. Like Liberica its bearing age is 4 to 5 years after transplanting and has an approximate yield of 1,000 kg per hectare every year.
Robusta. Noticeable for its umbrella-shaped growth, Robusta plant produces berries four years after transplanting. A well- tended one-hectare field can yield about 1,200 kg per year of green coffee beans. Its leaves are thinner than Excelsa and the edge is scalloped. Its flowers are also white with 5 to 6 petals. The barrier are smaller than Arabica, Closely clustered and blood red when ripe with thin pulp and parchment.
Coffee requires deep, friable and loamy soil. Avoid heavy clay soil because too much water can affect growth. Choose soil that has a good water-holding capacity and which allows good circulation of air and moisture. It requires a pH (acidity) that is near neutral to slightly acidic (between 4.5 and 5.5).
An environment which has a free air movement is favorable to the plant’s growth. A relative humidity of 70 to 85 per cent and a temperature of 13o to 26oC as well as rainfall of 190 to 200 cm distributed throughout the year are all important when growing coffee.
Arabica can be planted 900 to 1,800 meters above the sea level while the Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa can be planted from seas level up to 900 meters above the sea level. Southern Tagalog and Northern Mindanao are the largest coffee-production areas in the Philippines. Other places where coffee is being grown are Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Bicol, western, central and eastern Visayas.
Always get seeds from disease and pest-free and high-yielding trees. Choose only large and fully ripe berries. Avoid dry, over ripe berries left on branches. Small shriveled, lightweight and abnormal berries should not be used.
If you plant Arabica, use rust resistant strains of seeds like S-288, S-333 and S-795. For the variety Robusta, the productive trees are those with big broad leaves, big berries and wide-spreading branches.
Grow coffee plants first in the nursery which should be located in the plantation area and near the source of water.
Give a 50 per cent allowance on the required number of seeds to be planted. This will enable you to replant if there are ungerminated and poor seedlings.
Put berries in a bucket of water and stir them. Remove the pulp by hand pulping machine but avoid damaging the beans. After pulping, put seeds in a bucket to ferment them overnight. The following day, wash beans and remove damaged and small seeds.
If you are going to plant the seeds immediately, dry them in an open shade for ten days. Prepare germination beds one meter wide and of a convenient length (use your judgment here). To avoid flooding, raise beds 15 cm from ground level. A one-by-20- meters plot can accommodate one ganta of seeds. Plant seeds 30 cm apart and 1.5 cm deep. Sow the seeds as close as possible and cover with fine soil. Water beds as often as necessary. When 2 to 3 pairs of true leaves have developed, transplant (prick) the coffee seedlings from germination bed to nursery beds first to loosen the soil. Be careful in pulling the seedlings to minimize root damage.
For nursery beds, plow the soil thoroughly and remove stones. Sterilize soil by burning dried trash on top. Plant the seedlings at a distance of 20 to 25 cm and press the soil around the stem to avoid air spaces around the root surface.
If instead of nursery beds, you are going to use plastic bags, use 15 x 20 cm and .006 mm-thick polyethylene bags. Punch 6 to 8 pencil-size holes into the plastic (close to the base) as drainage. Fill plastic bags with soil and arrange them in a row to facilitate watering, weeding, cultivation and fertilizer application. Provide a 50-cm distance between rows. Water the seedlings as often as necessary and keep the soil moist.
Three weeks after picking, apply nitrogenous fertilizer. For liquid fertilizer, dissolve 0.75 kg of urea or 1.5 kg ammonium sulfate in 19 liters of water per one big kerosene can. About 3 kg of urea or 6 kg of ammonium sulfate will be needed for 1,000 seedlings. They have to be applied three months before transplanting.
Provide a shade for the coffee seedlings and make it high enough to allow workers to stand underneath. You can use palm leaves or grass. While growing, you can gradually reduce the shade to avoid spindly growth and the harden them before transplanting.
Because you will soon transplant the seedlings in an open field, plow and harrow thoroughly before laying out the rows. When planting coffee between coconuts, plow and harrow the space between them.
Arabica can be planted in single rows measuring 2.5 x 2.5 m, 3 x 2.5 m, 3 x 3 m. It can also be planted in hedge rows (2×2 m with strip of 4 meters followed by another two rows; or 1.5 x 2 meters with strip of 4 m between every 3 rows). Robusta coffee can be planted in rows measuring 3 x 3 m, 3 x 4 m. For Excelsa and Liberica varieties, you can construct rows measuring 4 x 4 m, 4 x 5, or 5 x 5 m.
Transplant seedling when not more than 6 pairs of seedling have fully developed and there are no lateral branches yet (about 8 to 10 months after sowing the seeds.) Plant at the start of the rainy season. Refrain from transplanting immediately after heavy rains or when the soil is sticky.
In the absence of soil and tissue analysis, the general recommendation for non-fruit bearing trees is to apply an equal amount of NPK ranging from 200 to 450 g per tree every year and 1 kg of 10-5-20 per tree per year for bearing trees.
For one-to-three-year old trees, make furrows about 5-cm deep around the tree and place a continuous band of the recommend fertilizer mixture and cover with soil. For fruit-bearing trees, apply fertilizer in holes or trenches around the trees (localized placement ) or spread fertilizer over the area, a half-meter away from the tree. always weed before applying fertilizers.
To enhance the productiveness of the trees and to facilitate easy harvesting and other field operations, pruning is necessary. Pruning is done to remove water sprouts, diseased, dead, or badly interlacing inner branches. One pruning system practiced is the “single stem” or “freegrowth” method. Here the tree is allowed to have only vertical stem where laterals (primary, secondary and tertiary branches) can develop.
Control of pest and diseases.
Coffee berry borer is an insect pest that attacks coffee berries after they have attained the size larger than mung-beans. Once infested with borers, berries which are normally green become yellow orange and fall prematurely. The presence of empty or partially filled fruits beneath a tree is a sign of infestation.
To control borers, collect and destroy infested berries before and after harvest. Pick up berries that have fallen on the ground to eliminate the breeding and feeding sites of insects. Don’t keep ripe and overripe berries in the plantation. Also, prune excess branches of shade trees to expose trees to sunlight and harvest early before berries are fully ripened. For treatment, put infested berries in a sack and soak it in the hot water or spray with chemicals recommended for infested berries.
Another insect pest that attack coffee is coffee leaffolder. Its larvae feed on leaves and sometimes attack flower and fruits. The adult is a small moth with light brown forewings. Its eggs are laid in cluster on leaves.
The most destructive disease of coffee is coffee rust. Arabica cultivars are susceptible to this disease except for four strains from India : S-288, S-333, S-446 and S-795. Symptoms of this disease appear as small, yellowish translucent spots on lower surface of leaves. Soon the spots enlarge and powdery yellow to orange spores are produced. Then, these small spots fuse and form irregular brown spots. Later on affected leaves drop and the tree may die. To prevent the disease, use resistant strains. However, if what you have is a susceptible variety, spray the plants with copper fungicides at 2 to 3 weeks interval at the start of heavy rains until the berries mature.
Another disease, called die-back, is characterized by the drying of branches and twigs from the dip downwards. Its symptoms appear as spots with concentric lines on both surface of seedlings, twigs and berries. As a control measure apply the right kind and amount of fertilizer at proper time. Prune to regulate plant growth.
Berries mature in a shorter period in lower and warmer areas than the higher and cooler areas. Arabica berries mature after 10 to 11 months from flowering. Robusta tales 10 months and Liberica and Excelsa, 11 to 12 months.
Harvest hard-ripe and soft-ripe berries only. Arabica and Robusta berries become red or yellow when ripe; Liberica and Excelsa turn red. Pick berries individually using the ladder for tall trees; or use a holding hook (3- to 4-foot sticks with cord attached). Use strong, dry, clean jute sacks and not plastic bags as containers of harvested berries.
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