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ASHC journal paper on coffee profitability

A new journal paper written by Lydia Wairegi and Piet van Asten contributes towards making sure that the fertilizers used by farmers have the potential to improve productivity and export earnings from East African coffee.

Poor soil fertility is a constraint to coffee production. But, fertilizer specifically targeting nutrient deficiencies in soil and the needs of specific coffee varieties, can contribute to improved productivity and export earnings from East African coffee.

Coffee berries

Using data gathered from 164 plots in Uganda, this study showed that two different methods Compositional Nutrient Diagnosis (CND) and Diagnosis and Recommendation Integrated System (DRIS) – were equally good in diagnosing nutrient imbalances in coffee production. This suggests that basing fertilizer recommendations on nutrient imbalances diagnosed using DRIS or CND can increase productivity and profitability of Arabica and Robusta coffee.

The study selected data for high-yielding coffee, for each coffee type so that a like comparison could be made. The high-yielding Arabica coffee had significantly higher phosphorus and potassium and lower nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, than the high yielding Robusta.

The difference in these nutrient norms, and nutrient interactions between Arabica and Robusta coffee, strongly indicates that nutrient requirements differ for the two coffee types. Differences in growth conditions and nutrient norms for the two coffee types suggest that diagnosing nutrient imbalances can be improved by using localized nutrient norms. Interactions between major nutrients clearly need to be taken into consideration when using fertilizer to target nutrient deficiencies.

The paper proposes that further investment in research aimed at addressing nutrient requirements in coffee would increase coffee production. This would have an impact in Uganda (where the study was carried out) as well as in Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi, where coffee is a major cash and export crop.

George Odour, ASHC project manager said:

“This is a useful piece of research which shows clear links between nutrient imbalaces and coffee production. The fact that the requirements vary between different coffee varieties shows that getting advice on soil nutrient to optimize productivity and profitability is a complex business. As the African Soil Health Consortium we are taking this kind of insightful research and turning it into practical, empowering information. This means that farmers, at all scales, can target investment in technologies that are expected to bring the greatest benefits.”

Title: Norms for multivariety diagnosis of nutrient imbalance in Arabica and Robusta coffee

First published online 18 April 2012

For more information contact Lydia Wairegi at ASHC

Update: In 2014 ASHC published Coffee banana cropping systems guides:

Bana coffee system cropping guide – colour low res

Banana-coffee sytem cropping guide – Black and white low res