By Mutuma Muriuki, Agroecology Fellow
A couple of months ago we shared an article about the effects of applying biofertilizer on cabbage crops. Now we are here to share some information about coffee, that wonderful energizing crop that has been a part of farms around the world for centuries.
Coffee is a tropical evergreen shrub, cultivated for its beans. There are two main types of coffee, which are grown all over the world: Arabica and Robusta. Latin America, for example, mostly produces Arabica species, while Africa is mostly known to produce Robusta species.
When it comes to growing coffee, most farmers use nitrogen- and potassium-based chemical fertilizers for optimum yields. While this may be effective on the short-term, there are many downsides to chemical fertilizer use. One of them is soil degradation, which leads to the ever-known vicious cycle of needing more and more chemical fertilizer with every crop cycle.
On the other hand, coffee trees have different diseases that attack it which farmers must also battle against: pathogens such as Colletotrichum coffeanum, which causes coffee berry disease; and fungi like Hemileia vastatrix that causes leaf rust. Insect pests also attack coffee berries and lead to significant loss of yields —these are considered economically important pests. One example of such pests is the berry borer (Stephanoderes hampei), a small beetle native to Africa that is among the most harmful pests to coffee crops around the world. To fight such pests and diseases, coffee farmers resort to continuous spraying with insecticides, which ultimately end up in our morning cups!
However, there is an answer to all these issues: our very own biofertilizer! Our powerful biodigester by-product not only increases soil fertility and crop productivity but also helps fight pests and diseases. In fact, our coffee farmers in Kenya have recorded increased quality yields by up to 2.5X in their coffee harvests.
One of our farmers, Samuel Mburu, owns a 2-acre farm in Kiambu, Kenya. He has installed a Sistema 8 biodigester, which gives him 150 liters of biofertilizer a day on top of his biogas for cooking.
He used to apply chemical fertilizer on his coffee shrubs, which cost him USD 70 per year. Back then, he could expect only 2000kg of berries per yield. He also had to spend a lot of time and money fighting constant attacks of coffee berry disease.
Since he started using biofertilizer for his coffee crops, Samuel has reported an increase in his yields to 5500kg as well as a noticeable increase in quality. What is more, he has completely eliminated chemical fertilizer use from his farm!
But how did he do it? Well, Samuel had amazing results because:
- Biofertilizer fed his soil and his crops with nutrients!
- Biofertilizer improved soil pH and water retention!
Would you like to increase the yields of your own coffee crops? Here are two ways to fertilize them:
1) At the root base
Use 1 bucket (20 liters) of biofertilizer per plant at the start of the season.
2) As foliar feed
Use up to 1/2 backpack (10 liters) of biofertilizer per plant every 2-3 weeks after flowering.
If you would like to know more about the benefits of biofertilizer and how to apply it on your farm, check out our Biofertilizer Uses series!