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Citation: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Citation: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The problem of the coffee leaf fungus Hemileia vastatrix also known as “roya del cafe” in spanish, is a major threat for thousands of smallholder producers in my home country Honduras and Central America in general. High quality coffee -usually planted in high altitudes- are mostly planted by smallholder farms whose livelihood depends on this crop. As S.D. Savage describes in his blog Applied Mythology there are very few alternatives to control the fungus and very little has been done in terms of developing resistant varieties to the coffee leaf fungus. If you at other insect pests such as the coffee pod borer Hypothenemus hampei, makes the future of coffee growing in Central America quite bleak.

There are indeed many cultural and agronomic practices that can help reduce the incidence of these diseases and pests in coffee, but none has proven to be a long term solution. There may be the need to start with the application of fungicides which in high altitude areas, may prove to be a logistical issue difficult to manage. I hope for the sake of the thousands of households in my home country whom generate even more direct and indirect jobs that a more permanent solution be found, including the possibility of applying advanced biotechnology techniques for its resolution, including genetic modifications to introduce resistance to the rust. Certainly, coffee producing countries will have to invest in developing long term plant breeding programs, with a potential 15-20 year time span to start getting results.

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