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LIFE BEGINS AFTER COFFEE
The coffee plant is a woody perennial whose fruit yield depends on the balance between vegetative and reproductive growth. The coffee plant is believed to have originated in the Ethiopian highlands in a county called Kaffa, hence the name.
But the English word ‘coffee’ is derived from the Italian ‘caffe’. Brazil is the highest coffee producer, providing 35% of global production. Coffee is grown within 1,700 km of the equator in both tropical and subtropical climates.
Though the genus coffee has numerous species (Rubiaceae), only two – Arabica and Robusta – are commercially significant. Arabica coffee grows best in altitudes of above 900m. (In Brazil, it is cultivated in places above 700m, but it is highly susceptible to pest and diseases.) Robusta grows in relatively low altitudes. It is relatively drought-resistant and is more resistant to pests. Robusta has high caffeine content, while Arabica has half the caffeine content of Robusta. Because of this trait, Robusta is used in most commercial coffee blends and in the production of instant coffee. The productivity of Arabica
coffee is about 600 kg/ha, while that of Robusta is 1070 kg/ha (Source: Coffee Board). In Brazil, the average yield is 1,300 kg/ha of Arabica processed coffee (Source: MAPA Brazil) and 1,800 kg/ha of Robusta processed coffee (Source: ABIC – Brazil).
Coffee growth is affected by climatic factors, such as light, temperature, rainfall and humidity, as well as by soil abiotic factors, such as concentration of nutrients, pH, moisture, drainage and soil temperature.
SHADE GROWN COFFEE
Coffee is cultivated in two ways: in direct sunlight and in shade. Growing under shade is done differently in different parts of the world. In the Philippines, for example, many growers use banana as an inter-crop during the first two years after planting. In India, it is common to grow coffee in a forest
with a 3-tier shade system, in which every tier consists of different types of trees with specific characteristics for each tier. In Brazil, the majority of the coffee is grown in direct sunlight, which is a more intensive crop system requiring fertigation and harvesting machinery.
Studies have shown that there are two main phases of growth: phase I from March to July; and phase II from August to October. (This is true for crops located in the northern hemisphere, while in the southern hemisphere there is a lag of 6 months.) The second phase of growth is more pronounced. In a
high production system, the input management (water and fertilizer) has to take into account these growth phases.
SOIL AND CLIMATE
Coffee requires aggregated, well-drained and slightly acidic soils
Because of drastic changes in the rain cycle over the years, irrigation is now essential for coffee production. Robusta plantation areas have been increasing since Arabica coffee began to decline as a result of increasing damage from pests. Robusta requires well-timed and systematic irrigation during the annual production cycle. In countries like India, Kenya, Ethiopia and Vietnam, coffee production thus depends on irrigation for at least 4-6 months of the year.
In the dry season it is necessary to irrigate coffee to prevent water stress. The acceptable amounts are ~2 mm per day for Arabica coffee and ~4 mm per day for Robusta coffee. These amounts may differ according to plantation age, climate and other factors. However, it is sometimes crucial to allow water stress during the period before flowering. The purpose of this water stress is to delay the flowering
until the last moment, when the climatic conditions, mainly the first rains of the spring, are optimal. By this time, most of the flower buds will be ready. In this way, this first flowering will be the main one, with the majority of the flowers generating fruits at the same time. Consequently, the main harvest
will bear a great quantity of fruits. In general, irrigated coffee trees have fewer harvests, generating not only increased productivity, but also savings in labor and costs.
Growth stages of coffee when irrigation is most critical:
• Berry expansion
• Bean filling
Irrigation for the next flowering:
In addition to the importance of irrigation in these 3 stages of grain formation, irrigation is also very important for the development of all the branches for the next production. This reduces the biannuality of production (one year produces much, another year produces little).
THE BENEFITS OF IRRIGATION
• Enhances Facilitates fertigation all year round, regardless of rain or drought
• Increases the number of flower bunches
• Enhances vegetative growth, thus ensuring yields the following year (reducing intermittence)
• Increases bean yield
• Improves the soil ecology by enhancing microbial population
• Improves the rate of decomposition of soil organic material, thus maintaining soil CN ratio
• Ensures ideal micro-climate of the soil for coffee growth
• Improves nutrient uptake by plants
• Prevents situations of water stress
• Provides continuous and adequate soil moisture during the vegetative and fruit growth stages.
SUITABLE IRRIGATION SYSTEMS FOR COFFEE
Heavy-duty sprinklers, rain guns and furrow irrigation have been adopted by large coffee plantations during the last two decades or so. The water use efficiency of these methods has been found to be inadequate, wasteful of water and inaccurate. Due to lack of water availability, a better understanding
of plant requirements and improvements in technology, the use of micro irrigation— micro-sprinklers or drippers—is now more common for coffee plantations.
The drip system, with its lower energy requirement, higher water use efficiency, and above all, its facilitation of fertigation (a more efficient use of fertilizer), is the best irrigation method available.
WHY MICRO IRRIGATION?
Excess water creates anaerobic conditions in the soil, which deprives the roots of vital oxygen. This is known as water logging. The use of micro irrigation maintains a desirable water-to-air ratio in the root zone, which is achieved by low flow rate application of the irrigation water. Of all irrigation methods, micro-irrigation provides the most efficient and most suitable way of fertigating. The use of drip irrigation makes it possible to irrigate efficiently, regardless of topographical conditions.
As mentioned above, one of the main advantages of an irrigation system is the ability to fertigate. As opposed to traditional ways of fertilizing, fertigation allows planters to determine the time, place, quantity, frequency and ratio of the nutrient elements.
THE BENEFITS OF FERTIGATION
• Reduces labor costs
• Precise distribution of the fertilizer in the soil –“spoon-feeding” the plant (fertilizer is localized in the root zone)
• Prevents fertilizer leaching below the root zone
• Reduces the need to enter the orchard
• Full control of the fertilizer composition at any given time
• Controls the distribution of fertilizer in the water (quantitative/proportional) The most advanced automated system of fertigation is the Gavish system, which provides accurate control and application with multiple functionality.
Coffee is a perennial plant with an annual cycle of flowering and fruiting. Coffee soils are often highly organic due to the continuous decomposition of available leaf matter. The processing of coffee beans also produces large quantities of fruit skins and pulp. For example, it is estimated that the processing of 6,000 kg fruits to get one ton of coffee beans also brings back 15 kg N, 3.7 kg P, and 37 kg of K to the soil (if it is properly composted and recycled). However, the use of organic manure, dung, slurry or compost alone cannot provide for high productivity of coffee. According to the 2000 Coffee Guide, published by the Coffee Board, one ton of clean coffee of the Arabica variety (6,000 kg mature fruit) removes 40 kg
N, 7 kg P and 45 kg K, while one ton of the Robusta variety (5,000 kg mature fruit) removes 45 kg N, 9 kg P and 58 kg K. An essential part of coffee plantation management is frequent soil and leaf analysis
for nutrient status. The target leaf nutrient contents are given below.
When the coffee plant reaches a height of 75 cm (Arabica) or 110 cm (Robusta), it is topped. This allows for the lateral spreading of the branches and increases the fruit bearing area. In cases of vigorous vegetative growth, a second topping is sometimes recommended.
Coffee plants are pruned immediately after harvest. Pruning involves:
Centring :removal of the vegetative growth up to 15 cm radius from the center and up to the first node of all primary branches.
Desuckering : removal of orthotropic branches arising from the main stem.
Handling : removal of young shoots growing towards the inner side of the canopy and causing shade. They become unproductive wood.
Nipping : nipping of the tips of primary branches to allow secondary and tertiary branches.
Pruning is an important technique requiring careful attention from the coffee grower, always bearing in mind the production of the coffee tree during the year. Pruning reduces the size of the plant and allows the formation of new branches.
There are different diseases and pests in different countries:
White stem borer: Infected plants wilt and leaves become yellow.
Shoot hole borer: Infected plants dry up.
Mealybug: This is one of the significant pests. Infection starts in a few isolated bushes but spreads quickly to others.
Leaf rust: Pale yellow spots on the lower surface of leaves turn into an orange, yellow powdery mass, and the infected plants defoliate.
Black rot: Affected leaves, twigs and berries blacken and rot.
Root diseases: Affected plants show gradual yellowing of leaves, followed by defoliation and death of parts of the plant above the ground.
Some diseases and pests are treated with different kinds of chemicals. In the case of systematic pesticides, the chemicals can be delivered via the irrigation system. They are taken up by the root and reach every part of the plant. This makes irrigation a valuable tool in pest management.
Coffee berries should be picked as they ripen in order to obtain quality coffee.
Arabica comes to harvest early, with the fruits taking 8-9 months from flowering till full development. Robusta takes 10-11 months. The coffee is either harvested mechanically or hand-picked. When hand-picked in India and Africa, for example, the first picking (called fly picking) entails the selective picking of ripe berries. This is followed by an additional 4-5 main pickings at 10-15 day intervals, followed by the final harvest.
Thin & medium walled non-PC flat dripline Innovative thin/medium-walled dripline with the most advanced labyrinth dripper on the market for maximum durability, accuracy and clog resistance.
Top Drip HD PC & PC AS
Innovative, cost effective, heavy duty pressure-compensating (PC) and anti-syphon (PC AS) thick-walled dripline models based on the cascade labyrinth.
Amnon Drip PC & PC AS
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Ideal solution for irrigation in topographically challenging terrain, and where long laterals are required
Naan PC 16mm
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MICRO-SPRINKLERS AND JETS
Emitters vary in flow rate, wetted area shape and diameter, as well as special features, such as self-compensating and insect-resistant mechanisms. Micro-sprinklers can be very efficient in rocky conditions. In organic plantations they ensure efficient use of compost and manure.
Complete family of micro-jets includes four models: Smart Jet, Smart Jet IP (Insect-Proof), Smart Jet PC (regulated) and Smart Jet PC IP.