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World Coffee Research’s breeding program

From the October 2016 issue.

World Coffee Research has begun a breeding program to create hybrid Arabicas best suited to the changing needs and challenges of the 21st Century.

Farmer tending seedlings in Mexico

For years now, World Coffee Research (WCR) has been pursuing a program to formalise and catalogue all of the scientific knowledge around coffee.

From looking into how changing weather patterns will affect production in different growing regions, to cataloguing the sensory attributes associated with many of the most popular coffee varieties, every one of WCR’s programs is undertaken with the aim to sustain and improve the world’s supply of quality coffee.

In November 2015,  WCR planted the seeds, both literally and figuratively, for a program that could do more than any other to fulfil the organisation’s mission, which is to: “To grow, protect, and enhance supplies of quality coffee while improving the livelihoods of the families who produce it.”

The organisation’s latest project is a breeding program that aims to develop two new hybrid varieties best suited to the evolving needs of the coffee industry – in terms of being well adapted to changing environmental conditions while also meeting market expectations in terms of quality.

In 2015, WCR held a workshop bringing breeders, agronomists and other key coffee science people from throughout Central America together with their lead breeder to create a design brief that answered the question: “If we were going to create two new varieties for Central America, what should they look like?”

According to WCR’s Director of Communications, Hanna Neuschwander, the group started by looking at the challenges facing farmers today and also listed the qualities that the market wants.

“They came up with two ideal coffees – one for lower elevations where leaf rust is present and temperatures are a little higher, and another one for higher altitudes where leaf rust is not present and where you’re able to get higher quality, so quality would be much more of a primary focus,” Neuschwander tells Global Coffee Report.

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