This project will develop new ways for breeding coffee trees, leading to a ‘double (i.e. sustainable and profitable) green revolution’ for perennial tree crops.
Using recently developed coffee hybrids as a case, we will show how breeding programmes can benefit both smallholders farmers by increasing their incomes, increasing available options for sustainability and/or fair-trade certification, and increasing the range of specialty Arabica coffees for the industry, while maintaining coffee production in the future in a more adverse climate.
Europea is the world’s largest consumer of coffee products and has a prominent coffee processing industry. The project has active participation by two processing companies - Arvid Nordquist and Illycafé - to demonstrate how direct participation in the tree breeding process can help meet the needs of the European coffee industry.
Hybrid crops to adapt to climate change
The project will result in a wide range of genotypes that match the diversity of sites farmers are living in, and that are adapted to the often low-input management that farmers use, addresses interactions between species and environment, under low input conditions.
The advent of hybrid crops represents one of the most powerful agricultural advances, but such hybrids have only rarely been applied to tree crops. The project will take advantage of recent genetics innovations in Arabica coffee (interspecific [Arabica x Robusta] and intraspecific [cultivated Arabica x wild Arabica] hybrids or advanced progenies, and grafting on Robusta of different Arabica varieties) that provides an ideal “genepool”, established in the field and under different controlled conditions and allowing studies ranging from the farm level to the plant genetic levels. The project will hence use networks of trial and on-farm plots already established by the project partners in Nicaragua, Colombia and French Guyana. The project will also establish new farms plots in these countries as well as in Vietnam.
Creating tools for selection
In addition, the project's approach will lead to the development of powerful selection tools that can be applied in future breeding practices by farmers and industry alike by combining extensive phenotyping with transcriptomic analysis on a scale which has not previously been undertaken with perennial tree crops. Through phenotyping and transcriptome analysis of new varieties in a range of agroecological conditions (including multiple stresses and elevated CO2), we will achieve a better understanding of coffee physiology.