World Coffee Research (WCR) has released the Robusta Variety Catalog, and open-access resource for Robusta farmers. The catalog, which is available in English and Spanish, profiles 47 Robusta varieties from origins such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Uganda, Mexico, and Vietnam, using more than 20 variables, such as yield potential, stature, bean size, nutrition requirements, lineage, susceptibility to pests/diseases, and more.
With Robusta’s growing prevalence in the global market, WCR hopes the catalog will lower the risk associated with coffee farming by providing direct information to enable farmers to make an informed choice about what varieties will grow best in particular environments.
“Since our founding over ten years ago, WCR has worked to empower farmers by making tools available to choose the right varieties for their farms and their markets—varieties that deliver high yield and better-tasting coffee in the long term,” says WCR CEO Dr. Jennifer “Vern” Long. “And, now that Robusta comprises 40 per cent of the coffee produced and marketed globally, we saw the need to support farmers by creating this tool.”
According to WCR, most Robusta farmers in particular do not have access to transparent information about available varieties and how they differ. Robusta farmers typically sell into lower-value markets where variety differentiation is non-existent. In addition, Robusta requires more than one variety and simultaneous flowering for successful pollination. Because of this, farmers must cultivate a mix of complementary clones to enhance fruit production and quality. These mixtures, which typically comprise officially released commercial varieties, are often distributed to farmers with minimal transparency about what clones are included in the mix and their unique properties. The lack of up-to-date variety information puts farmers at risk and perpetuates low yields around the globe.
Until recently, arabica held reign over most of the coffee market due to preferences for its beverage quality, but various factors, including the increasing demand and climate pressure for farmers, have led to expansions in the production of Robusta.
The Robusta catalog was generated through collaborative sourcing of data about varieties from breeders and other experts, including the Central Coffee Research Institute, the Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, the National Coffee Research Institute of Uganda, the Western Highlands Agroforestry Science Institute, and Nestlé’s Research Center.
The varieties in the Robusta catalog were selected for inclusion because of their economic, historical, cultural, or genetic importance. Even so, significant gaps in data for many Robusta varieties remain. The genetic diversity of Robusta coffee is also much larger than that of arabica, and it is only just beginning to be explored by breeders and the industry at large. According to WCR, the catalog does not aim to represent an exhaustive list of all coffee varieties in existence.
To access the Robusta catalog, visit varieties.worldcoffeeresearch.org