Barista Magazine

APR-MAR 2014

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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rust. When a plant is infected with the fungus, it won't die, even without treatment. The rust will, however, defoliate the plant (though in the first year, at least, it will still produce cherry). Without a healthy plant to support the fruit produc- tion, most of the cherry, however, will not ripen or will not ripen evenly. In the second year, the defoliated plant will put all of its energy into producing leaves instead of cherry. If the rust spores are still around, as soon as the new leaves emerge, the disease will reinfect them. The farmer is ultimately faced with a distressing dilemma: stump the plant, treat the area with fungicide, and wait three years for the plant to become productive again (all the while continuing with the expenses of fertilization and fungicide), or replace the field with a rust-resistant variety, and, of course, wait around three years for the plants to mature and become productive again. With a low-cost rust-resistant variety available to Colombian famers with Castillo, many switched following the country's massive outbreak in 2010. There's also another conundrum facing farmers, when dealing with rust, and rust-resistant varieties like Castillo: Will buyers want their new coffee? This question led many farmers to keep rust-susceptible varieties in their fields even in the presence of the disease. They felt like they couldn't take the risk of switching crops without losing customers. "The aversion to change is also on the part of clients," explained Luis Fernando Samper. "We didn't anticipate the resistance from baristas and roasters. They like higher-acid- ity coffees, typically from higher altitudes, but higher eleva- tion rust wasn't a problem. [So] they started tasting Castillos that were grown at lower elevations [where acidity would naturally be lower]." Initially, they were not impressed with what they tasted— but there are solutions. In addition to finding lots of Castillo in areas that traditionally produce higher-quality coffees, some things about the variety itself may require different strate- gies to bring out the best in it. Tyler Youngblood, cofounder of the Colombian specialty-coffee roaster and retailer Azahar Coffee, said in recent Castillo experiments he had conducted, he found that picking the cherry later than usual produced a much better cup. He was very encouraged by the results. "Only recently can you have a real apple-to-apple compar- ison with high-grown Castillo varieties," says Samper. "We had a huge endorsement when a rust-resistant variety won the COE [Cup of Excellence]." The Colombian response to leaf rust has been a tremen- dous success. Just looking at the dramatic decrease from the percentage of the crop affected in 2010 to where it is today is a testament to that—but it's not over. The truth of the matter is that rust is not the problem facing Colombian coffee growers, or Central American ones. Rust is just a symptom. The real challenge is much, much greater: It's climate change, and its impact requires an even larger strategic response. We'll have more on that in an upcoming issue of Barista Magazine. B o o k 5 5 - 1 0 8 . i n d d 8 3 Book 55-108.indd 83 3 / 2 4 / 1 4 7 : 1 6 A M 3/24/14 7:16 AM

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