Coffee is one among the important commercial crops in Chikmagalur, Kodagu, Chamarajanar and Hasan districts of Karnataka. Many coffee growers had been using hazardous agro-chemicals to control white stem borer, berry borer and leaf rust. White stem borer (WSB) is a big menace in Arabica coffee, especially with kaveri variety. Arabica coffee mainly grows in high elevated regions, and it needs 50 to 60% of tree canopy shade. Arabica know its qualities like acidity, aroma and sweetener.
Bhuvaneswara Bhat, a 55 year old, small coffee grower from Mudigere taluk explained his innovation to mitigate WSB on Arabica coffee. Bhat had been doing grafting Arabica coffee on Robusta root stock and also managing tree canopy with traditional polyculture systems.
Mr. Bhat developed an Arabista coffee with Arabica scion on Robusta root stock with grafting technique (Arabica scion plant + Robusta root stock =Arabista Coffee). Generally, Robusta coffee has resistance against white stem borer but need less tree canopy. But in Arabica coffee need more trees canopy and prone to WSB attack. In the year 2000, Bhat lost entire Robusta coffee yield due adverse climatic and WSB problems. He doesn’t have alternatives to feed his family, not willing to replace Robusta coffee, and then decided to go for grafting method. In 2001, he tried Arabista grafting method with seven coffee plants, and got succeed in his innovation, and then slowly increased the area of Arabista coffee with grafting techniques.
The April-May is the best season for making Arabista coffee grafting in the main farm. Selection of favourite scion of Arabica coffee variety and then identified Robusta root stock for grafting on the same day. Cut the scion material on day of grafting only, not necessary to cut the scion materials before the grafting like in mango. He is doing soft wood grafting for making Arabista coffee. In the year 2000, he had 4000 Robusta plants and very few Arabica, but now only 1000 Robusta and remaining 3000+ are Arabista coffee plants. In the year 2017, he harvested 25 bags of parchment coffee from Arabista coffee.
Traditional tree shade management: The important agronomy practices to mitigate white stem borer in Arabista coffee production is keeping 50 to 60% multipurpose tree canopy. Bhat, keeping 2-tier good shade with local trees rather than going for silver oak trees, there are very few silver oak trees in his farm but more emphasis on traditional tree species such as Ficus glomerata (Atti), Microcarpa fraxinifolius (Havalige), Jack fruit, Erythrina Indica, Rose wood, Legostromia lanceota (Nandhi), Fish tail palm (Bagani), Terminalia tomentosa (Matti), Terminalia bellarica (Taare), Sapandus emirgintus (Soap nut) and Acrocarpus fraxinifolius (Balanji)
In the lower canopy he maintains Erythrina spp and rest trees managing at upper canopy. Atti and Havalige are the best shade tree species for coffee production. These two trees sheds the leaves in the month of June-August and new leaves during summer season, this will regulate the coffee leaf rust in rain season and best shade canopy at summer season, and also attracts lots of birds during fruiting and flowering season.
Moreover, Bhat explained the co-existence of avian and other bio-diversities, this indirectly supports the coffee production sustainably and also mitigate white stem borer economically. The regular pruning of trees is very much needed and does it accordingly with climatic situations especially moisture and temperature.
HRNS-EDE consulting service is a non-profit company working with small and marginal coffee farmers across globe to promote sustainable production technologies and also enabling coffee farmers to work on collective marketing. The HRNS-EDE consulting service collected Arabista coffee for cup testing, reports says there is no qualities of Robusta coffee like harsh, bitter, astringent; it has only Arabica coffee qualities like acidity, aroma and sweetener.
Research institutions and other concern departments should do further validation and field level research on Arabista coffee on quality and others parameters, but MAS Sustainable Coffee Producer Company is now propagating this unique innovation to mitigate climate change challenge for its shareholders.
The MAS Sustainable Coffee Producer Company Limited (in short, MAS Company) discussing with members on understanding implications of climate change on coffee production; they pointed out with following reasons for Chikmagalur and Hasan districts.
1. Sudden reduction in coffee yield due to loss of soil moisture, over atmospheric temperature, un-seasonal rains and heavy wind
2. Increases in incidence of pest and disease, especially WSB
3. Increases in Irrigation, Fertilizer and Pesticide cost, especially on blossom and back rain irrigation cost through sprinklers
4. Gradual fall in quality of coffee bean due to development of pre-mature endocarp and lack of nutrient uptake by plants.