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World Coffee Research (WCR) has confirmed that a coffee variety in Honduras, widely planted across the country because of if its resistance to coffee leaf rust, is no longer resistant to the disease.

At a gathering of technical experts from across Central America, WCR said the variety, Lempira, makes up a significant portion of Honduran coffee production and has been widely planted since an epidemic of leaf rust hit Central America beginning in 2012.

The Honduran national coffee institute, Instituto Hondureño del Café (IHCAFE), received reports of rust infections on Lempira coffee trees in January 2017. One early hypothesis was that the plants thought to be Lempira were in fact another, susceptible, variety.

WCR was informed and offered to conduct DNA fingerprinting to confirm the variety of the plants. Samples of leaves were collected from two locations – a heavily infected farm in the eastern part of the country, as well as ‘mother’ plants for the Lempira variety maintained by IHCAFE. The tests were positive, confirming that Lempira is indeed now susceptible to rust.

IHCAFE said that, as of April 2017, the incidence level of rust nationally was only 6 per cent (below the level of economic damage). However, 18 per cent of Lempira farms surveyed in March had an incidence level higher than 10 per cent.

IHCAFE is alerting farmers of the possible development of a severe attack once the rains are established.

For more information see the forthcoming July 2017 issue of Coffee & Cocoa International.

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