Coffee leaf rust, a virus is threatening to harm coffee production in Latin America. The coffee leaf rust which is caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix had hit the coffee-producing region of Antigua, Guatemala, in 2012. While they were earlier producing 140,000 pounds of superior-quality Arabica coffee beans, in 2014 they just 28,000 pounds of coffee which is an 80 percent drop.
According to reports, unless a significant change is taken to control climate change and resist the diseases causing virus, experts are predicting a shortfall of 180 million bags by 2050. National Public Radio quoted Guatemalan producer and exporter Josué Morales who works with over 1,300 growers as saying, "We are in the middle of the biggest coffee crisis of our time." This coffee rust which is evolving causes defoliation making the plant lose its leaves. Coffee Can Keep Cardiovascular Diseases at Bay and Even Help You Increase Longevity
According to Purdue University, 70 percent of the globally known coffee farms in Central America has been hit by the disease, causing loses of USD 3.2 billion in damage and lost wages. Arabica which consists of 75 percent of coffee production is quite susceptible to the pathogen. International Coffee Day 2018: Know All About the Beverage and Origin of the Day
Purdue mycologist Cathie Aime, who recently received a grant from World Coffee Research to study the disease was quoted as saying, "This is one of those rusts that even though it’s been with us for over 100 years, we don’t even understand its entire life cycle. This is much more difficult than it sounds. For rust fungi, they’re obligate pathogens, so you can’t get pure DNA in meaningful quantities. You can’t grow it in culture or manipulate it in the lab. And they’re microfungi, so you are dealing with extremely small organisms embedded in their host."
In a bid to control the epidemic, scientists are now working to understand the problem better from its reproductive processes to full genome. Meanwhile, World Coffee Research (WCR) has announced that more needs to be done to change the condition of coffee plantation and farmers. Hyperinflation in Venezuela: A Cup of Coffee Costs One Million in This Country!
According to them, one of the main reasons for the 2012 rust crisis in Central America was the reduction in maintenance of their trees, due to low prices of coffee. Along with promoting plant health, WCR has launched multiple initiatives to combat coffee rust. They are also trying to breed and creating F1 hybrid varieties that which can tolerate stress and have better resistance against the virus.