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World Coffee Research releases seed quality assurance report

World Coffee Research

World Coffee Research (WCR) has released a technical report assessing seed sources in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru. This is achieved through a multi-factor, multi-location analysis of the landscape for accessibility to seed supply and quality assurance of planting material in these countries.

According to WCR, the report underscores the importance of building infrastructure for a formal coffee seed sector in Latin America and other coffee-producing regions.

“Improved varieties support successful production for farmers and help secure supply for the industry. With many competing challenges facing coffee, it’s exciting to showcase the concrete steps our partners have taken to tackle quality assurance in planting material distribution systems,” says Dr. Vern Long, WCR CEO.

“These efforts make quality seed more accessible and ensure that farmers can have confidence in the coffee trees they plant today—and can count on them to perform as expected in the decades ahead.”

WCR surveyed 52 seed plantations in 2023 and genotyped leaf samples to assess the genetic conformity of their plants.

The report found that over 36 per cent of participating seed lots had very high rates of genetic noncompliance, with 50 per cent or fewer tested trees showing genetic conformity. Trees grown from these materials will not have the performance and characteristics sought by growers.

Other key findings showed that only 26 per cent of seed lots had high rates of genetic conformity of 90 per cent or higher. Three coffee varieties showed higher levels of compliance, including Anacafe 14, Parainema, and Marsellesa. Seed lots that focused on producing them tended to have more true-to-type materials.

According to the report, even when genetic conformity was present, seed plantations still didn’t always follow good agricultural practices for seed production, such as isolation to avoid cross-pollination, traceability protocols, and adequate storage, putting their seeds at risk of contamination.

Through the Maximising Opportunities in Cacao and Coffee in the Americas program, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, WCR undertook activities to strengthen the seed sector for Arabica coffee across the five major coffee-producing countries in Latin America.

These activities helped WCR identify sector needs and training requirements for growers as well as the current genetic quality of planting materials accessible to Arabica coffee farmers across these countries. This information has also helped identify the current genetic quality of planting materials accessible to coffee farmers in the region.

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