A new, rust resistant variety of coffee has scored 90 points in the Nicaragua Cup of Excellence competition, highlighting the fact that rust resistant varieties can be resistant to disease and cup well.
The variety, Centroamericano, is one of a new class of F1 hybrids. The coffee took second place in the Nicaragua competition and was grown by Gonzalo Adán Castillo Moreno (shown here). Mr Moreno’s farm, Las Promesas de San Blas, is in the northern region of Neuva Segovia, near the border with Honduras.
The jury, including cuppers from nine countries, scored the coffee a 90.50, giving it the prestigious Presidential Award, which only recognizes coffees that score 90 or more out of a potential 100.
Twenty-four 30kg boxes of Mr Moreno’s coffee were due to be auctioned on 1 June. This was the first year that any F1 hybrid variety had been placed in a Cup of Excellence competition.
F1 hybrid varieties are completely new in coffee and have only recently become commercially available to farmers (and so far only in Central America). They are not yet in widespread production. Nicaragua has a leg up on the adoption of F1 hybrid varieties because testing was done on farms in the country starting as early as 2006, when the varieties were first being developed.
The 90 point score for Mr Moreno’s Centroamericano is especially notable because the variety is resistant to coffee leaf rust, which has devastated wide swaths of coffee production in Central America since an epidemic began in 2012. It is also extremely high yielding.
In breeding evaluations, it showed production increases of 22-47 per cent over the standard varieties in the region. It was released in 2010 for farmers in Central America and is planted on roughly 1,000 hectares in the region. It is a cross between the Ethiopian landrace variety Rume Sudan and a rust-resistant variety called T5296 (used primarily in breeding and not itself in widespread production). It was created by a consortium including French research institute CIRAD and a regional network of national coffee institutes in Central America, PROMECAFE.
World Coffee Research (WCR) says it believes that F1 hybrids hold great promise and could revolutionize the coffee industry through genetic progress, the way they did for maize in the last century. It is pursuing the creation of new F1 hybrid varieties in Central America and Africa. At the WCR experimental farm in El Salvador, 46 new F1 hybrid varieties are currently being tested.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled about this,” said Tim Schilling, CEO of WCR. “It validates our instinct that F1 hybrids are absolutely essential for the future of coffee. F1 hybrids can combine traits that matter most to farmers – higher yields and disease resistance – with the trait that matters most to consumers, taste. That has always been a trade-off in the past. Coffee just took a huge leap into the future.”