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Nestlé scientists discover low carbon and drought resistant Robusta coffee varieties

low carbon coffee

Nestlé plant scientists have developed a new generation of low carbon coffee varieties, through classical non-GMO breeding and by harnessing the plant’s natural biodiversity.

Compared to standard varieties, the two new Robusta varieties deliver up to 50 per cent higher yields per tree. Because more coffee can be produced using the same amount of land, fertiliser and energy, the result is an up to 30 per cent reduction in the CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) footprint of the green coffee beans. Since green beans account for 40 to 80 per cent of the CO2e emissions of a cup of coffee, these breakthrough varieties significantly reduce the carbon footprint associated with coffee consumption.

One of these new Robusta varieties with up to 50 per cent higher yields has already been successfully trialled on fields and is now being grown by farmers in Central America.

Ultimately, Nestlé says such new varieties will help farmers earn a better living by enabling them to grow more high-quality coffee on the same amount of land, sustainably, and with a lower carbon footprint.

Similarly, Nestlé is developing new higher-yielding Arabica varieties that are also bred to be more resistant to coffee leaf rust – a plant disease that has devastated coffee plantations across the Americas. This also contributes to a higher yield while using the same amount of fertiliser and land.

Furthermore, Nestlé plant scientists have also developed a drought-resistant coffee variety, currently being trialled on fields in Central Africa, that delivers up to 50 per cent higher yields per plant under moderate to severe water stress. This will support the continuation of coffee cultivation in regions impacted by climate change.

“Thanks to the expertise of our plant scientists in selection and classical breeding, and by leveraging our rich collection of coffee varieties, we were able to develop this new generation of low carbon and drought-resistant coffee plants,” Nestlé CTO Stefan Palzer says.

“In doing so, we will contribute significantly to the reduction of CO2e emissions associated with coffee consumption. We will also enable farmers in regions affected by climate change to continue to produce great coffee.”

Work on new plant varieties is led by the Nestlé Research centre for plant sciences in Tours, France. Through classical breeding, the scientists continuously develop improved coffee varieties which are then tested on the company’s experimental farms in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Finally, the new plantlets are proliferated and distributed to farmers globally through Nestlé’s sustainable sourcing programs and partnerships with local agricultural institutes and cooperatives.

Since 2011, Nestlé has distributed 235 million high-performing coffee plantlets through the Nescafé Plan, and the new varieties are being included in this sustainable sourcing program.

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