A coffee farm never stops working, although there are no harvesting activities, producers need to get involved in other tasks that will ensure those sweet and healthy cherries that will be ready to be picked on the next harvest!
We talked to Eduardo Cabrera of Finca San José del Lago located in the Atitlán region. He kindly explained the most important tasks that producers need to get done once the harvest is finished to be prepared for the next one.
Eduardo’s agronomic knowledge helps him to make the best decisions for his crop and allows him to understand the importance of timing when it comes to farm preparation tasks. He says that for every season a producer needs to set specific tasks. For instance, dry season is key for certain activities such as pruning which need to be done during this season.
Understanding the trees' biology helps to give coffee plants what they need at the right time.
Pruning consists on removing from the plant some branches, leaves and even part of the tree in order to strengthen its ability to produce new fruits in the next few years. There are different techniques that are implemented according to what the coffee tree needs based on the variety and its size.
Eduardo grows at his farm traditional varieties such as bourbon, typica and caturra and the pruning system is implemented according to the tree size. For tall varieties such as Typica and Bourbon, he prunes the branches vertically leaving one side productive and one side pruned so the yield does not decrease drastically. Regarding short varieties such as Caturra, they are stumped at 80 cm from the soil in order to obtain new branches. This practice is done per row every three years.
2. Shade Management
In Guatemala, coffee is traditionally shade grown. However, Eduardo explains that after each harvest it is important to remove other trees’ branches that may create more shade than needed. Having too much shade makes the coffee plants get bushy as they will produce more leaves to access sunlight, focusing a lot of its energy in its folicular system. Which may impact, making the coffee plant less productive.
3. Fertilization Plan
Rainy season starts in May which means fertilization time. According to soil analysis that is done every two years during the dry season, the quantity of fertilizer to be used per tree is determined. Eduardo explains that fertilizer is only applied to productive plants that will use the fertilizer to their benefit to make sure they get a good production yield.
His fertilization plan consists of applying lower doses, five times during the year. The first one in May, the second one in June, the third in July (being the first rainy season) and then, the next dose in August and the last dose in October (being the second rainy season of the year).
This system helps coffee plants to assimilate more efficiently each dose that will be required during the different periods in which the tree is focusing its energy in the fruit production.
4. Disease Control
Eduardo believes that preventive pest and disease control is more efficient and less expensive. He applies fungicides every 45 days in low doses to prevent fungi diseases such as Leaf Rust.
Regarding pests such as borer beetles, he does cultural management that does not involve the use of chemicals but implements other practices such as removing and cleaning any cherries remaining in the trees and soils in order to avoid borer beetle reproduction
5. Weeds Control
Weeds grow very fast and may interfere with the coffee tree's nutrition. This is why they need to be controlled. Eduardo implies two ways of weed control: mechanics with a machete cutting all the long weeds that may affect the coffee trees. And using a herbicide in low doses that help to keep the weeds low.
6. Washing Station Maintenance
Finally, cleaning and doing some maintenance to the infrastructure such as calibrating the depulper and keeping the washing area cleaned is part of the harvest routine but also another task after the harvest.
Coffee farms require a lot of input throughout the year and it should be planned according to every season so coffee plants can get what they need at the right time. This way, short and long term goals will be met more easily giving the producer access to a product of quality.