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Beverages and Stimulants

COFFEE (Coffea spp.)



The soil and climatic requirements for Arabica and Robusta varieties are as follows:


Elevation 1000-1500 m above MSL
Annual rainfall 1600-2500 mm
Blossom rain March-April (2.5-4.0 cm)
Backing rain April-May (5-7.5 cm)
Shade Medium to light
Temperature 15-25ºC
RH 70-80%


Elevation 500-1000 m above MSL
Annual rainfall 1000-2000 mm
Blossom rain Feb-March (2.0-4.0 cm)
Backing rain April-May (5-7.5 cm)
Shade Uniform thin
Temperature 20-30ºC
RH 80-90%

In both cases, soil should be deep, friable, and rich in organic matter with a pH of 6.0-6.5.


 Cocoa can be propagated by seed and vegetative means.

Seed propagation
It is desirable to collect seeds from biclonal or polyclonal seed gardens involving superior self-incompatible parents to ensure genetic superiority of planting materials. Polyclonal and biclonal seed gardens have been established at CCRP farm of the Kerala Agricultural University, Vellanikkara and Kidu farm of CPCRI and seeds and seedlings are being supplied to growers. If seeds cannot be procured from such seed gardens, mother plants for collection of seeds may be selected based on the following criteria:

(1) Trees of Forastero type having medium or large pods of not less than 350 g weight or 400 cc volume, green in colour when immature, having smooth or shallow furrows on the surface without prominent constriction at the neck should be selected. Yield of pods should be not less than 100 per year.
(2) Husk thickness of pods to be not more than 1 cm.
(3) Pod value (number of pods to give 1 kg wet beans) to be not more than 12.
(4) Number of beans per pod to be not less than 35.
(5) Bean dry weight to be not less than 1 g.

Seeds lose viability within a week of harvest of pods. Seeds are to be sown immediately after extraction from the pods. Viability of the beans can be extended for some more days if freshly extracted seeds are stored in moist charcoal and packed in polybags. Other alternative is extracting beans, removing the testa and packing in polythene bags.
Selection of planting materials
When seedlings are used for planting, select only vigorous and healthy seedlings produced from polyclonal seed garden or selected mother plants as described earlier.
When budded plants are used, select two or more clones for planting as the use of a single clone can lead to poor production due to the existence of self-incompatibility in cocoa.



Though three varietal types viz., Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario are recognized, only Forastero types are known to perform well under Indian conditions. Breeding work initiated at the Kerala Agricultural University since 1979 has resulted in the release of seven improved clones of Forastero type. These are CCRP 1, CCRP 2, CCRP 3, CCRP 4, CCRP 5, CCRP 6 and CCRP 7. These improved clones are suitable for cultivation in different cocoa growing tracts of the country and also in the warm tropical areas especially under the shade of coconut. All these clones are tolerant to vascular streak dieback and have yield potential in the range from 55 to 180 pods per tree per year and mean yield from 38 to 78 pods per tree per year. During 2002, three hybrids viz., CCRP 8, CCRP 9 and CCRP 10 were released. These have mean yields of 90, 105 and 79 pods per tree per year. These are also tolerant to vascular streak dieback disease.

Cocoa is highly cross pollinated and growing of different varieties adjacent to each other must be encouraged so as to achieve maximum fruit set and yield realization.



Preparation of land
If it is a jungle, only selective felling of trees is done maintaining the trees, which are desirable at appropriate spacing. The under growth may be cleared to enable line marking with a base line and opening of pits. The entire plot may be conveniently divided into blocks with roads and footpaths.

In April, pits of 45 x 45 x 45 cm may be opened at appropriate spacing for different coffee cultivars as described below.

Tall arabica like S 795, S 288: 2.1 m x 2.1 m
Semi-dwarfs like Cauvery: 1.8 m x 1.8 m
Dwarfs like S 7 (San Ramon): 1.5 m x 1.5 m
Hybrids like Congensis x Robusta (CxR): 2.5 m x 2.5 m
Robusta selections like S 274, BR series: 3.0 m x 3.0 m

The pits after digging will be kept open for weathering for a couple of months until monsoon. In June, the pits are covered with topsoil and staked. In poor soils, 250 g of FYM or compost per pit may be added before filling.

Planting materials
Old arabica varieties like Kents and Coorgs are more susceptible to the leaf rust disease (Hemileia vastatrix). Arabica selections of tall, medium and dwarf habit are grown on large scale because of their proven performance in yield and comparatively better resistance to leaf rust disease. In dwarfs, San Ramon (S 7, 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3) and in medium size bushes, Cauvery (Catimor) are the popular varieties. Some of the arabica slections like Sln 5, 6 and 7 are location specific while S.795 (tall) is adapted to all areas. All the arabica selections either have vertical resistance to commonly occurring races of H. vastatrix or both horizontal and vertical resistance as in Sln.5 and 9. Robustas are not infested either with leaf rust disease or the white stem borer pest, which are more on record in arabica. However, mealy bug incidence will be more in robusta.

In coffee, generally the propagation is done through seeds and of late in robusta, the clonal propagation was also established to be successful. To a limited extent, grafted plants are also being planted.

From the selected and certified seed blocks, healthy and fully matured fruits of normal appearance with three quarters of ripening are harvested selectively from the marked plants during November-December in the case of arabicas and in January-February in robustas. Discarding the floats, the sound fruits are pulped and sieved to remove the defective beans. The beans are then mixed with wood ash @ 0.75 kg per kg of seeds and dried under shade stirring from time to time to facilitate uniform drying. To protect the seeds against any microbial infection, the seeds are treated with either carbendazim @ 1 g or with vitavax @ 0.66 g per kg of seed coffee.


Germination bed (primary): Seeds are sown in raised seed beds (15 cm above the ground level) provided with proper drainage prepared out of soil, compost and sand at 6:2:1 proportion. A bed of 4 x 3 m will be sufficient for 1.5 kg of seeds, if sown 1.0 to 1.5 cm apart in rows, with the flat side of the seed towards the soil. A thin layer of soil is spread after sowing and covered with dry straw to a thickness of about 5 cm to ensure uniform temperature and to regulate moisture retention. Sowing is to be taken up in December-January for arabica and in February-March for Robusta. Watering of the seed beds is to be done twice a day in the initial week and thereafter regulated. The seeds sprout in about 40 days when the straw mulch is removed. The primary beds are provided with pandal covered with coir mats or dry leaves.

Polybag (basket) nursery: Seedlings from germination beds are transplanted to polythene bags in Feb-March when they are at the 'button' stage. Polythene bags of 23 cm x 15 cm and 150 gauge thickness with adequate number of holes of 3 mm in the bottom half of the bag are preferred. The bags are filled with prepared mixture of 6 parts of sieved jungle soil, 2 parts of well rotten sieved cattle manure and 1 part of fine sand. The prepared mixture is thoroughly mixed and slightly moistened with water to facilitate packing. The soil is filled into the nursery baskets and pressed firm. Nursery baskets are arranged conveniently in rows of 10 within a rectangular frame with bamboo reapers. These frames are held in positions with bamboo or wooden props driven into the ground at suitable distance.

Coffee seedlings at the button stage are transplanted into nursery baskets. The seedlings are gently lifted from the germination beds with minimum injury to roots. Prior to transplanting, the nursery basket is watered and a vertical hole of 5 cm deep is made in the soil at the centre of the basket. At the time of transplanting it is preferable to slightly nip off the taproot of the seedling. The taproot and the feeder roots should be so disposed as to enable the plant to strike roots and make firm growth as quickly as possible. The shoot portion of the transplanted seedling should be at the same height above soil level as it was in the germination bed. Transplanting is done preferably in the early morning hours or late in the afternoon. Seedlings uprooted from the primary bed should not be stored for a long time but transplanted immediately.

Regular watering and aftercare of the seedlings should follow. Excess moisture and watering in the afternoon should be avoided as it may induce damping off.

Secondary nursery beds

In some areas, seedlings from the germination beds are transplanted to secondary nursery beds of the same soil composition as that of germination beds. Transplanting is done at button stage. Seedlings are planted 30 cm apart. If the taproot is bent or excessively grown, it is nipped off while transplanting. The beds are mulched and watered at regular intervals. Watering should be done during the early morning hours.

Aftercare of seedlings
Seedlings are to be manured once in two months with urea dissolved in water or supernatant solution of fermented cowdung slurry. For an area of 1 m2, 20 g urea dissolved in 4.5 litres water is sufficient. Adequate protection is given against nursery diseases and pests. Overhead shade in the nursery has to be thinned and finally removed after the onset of monsoon (this is not applicable to northeastern areas). The seedlings grow vigorously if watered judiciously and protected against afternoon sun.

Planting in field
Disease free and vigorous seedlings are selected for planting. Seedlings with stunted and twisted roots are discarded. Rooted plants (aged 16-18 months) with and without ball are planted during June and bag plants are generally planted during Sept- Oct. A hole is made at the centre of the pit after leveling the soil. The seedling is placed in the hole with its taproot and lateral roots spread out in proper position. The hole is then filled. The soil around the seedling is packed 3 cm high above the ground to prevent stagnation of water around the collar. The seedlings are provided with cross stakes to prevent wind damage and mulched properly.

Ball and bag seedlings are planted towards the end of the heavy monsoon rains and commencement of northeast rains, i.e., in September. First the bottom portion of the bag is cut and the tip of the root is nipped. The seedling is gently removed from the bag with its soil and root system intact and planted in the hole. The hole is covered with soil and the plant is firmly fixed similar to ball plants. It is wise to maintain both types of nurseries and have planting seasons, June and September.

Planting shade trees

Dadap is commonly used as a lower canopy shade. Stakes of 2 m length are planted for every two plants of coffee. Silver oak and dadap are planted during June when the southwest monsoon commences. During the dry seasons, stems of young dadap are either painted with dilute lime solution or wrapped in agave leaves to protect them from sun scorch.

Clonal propagation
In the case of robusta, which is highly cross pollinated clonal propagation is more adaptable. In the case of arabica, the stabilization of desirable characters in the selected plants could be easily maintained by adopting clonal or vegetative propagation method. The vertical (orthotropic) shoots are marked after harvest is over in any selected plant. Single node green wood (semi-hardwood) cutting of 10 cm length and 3 to 6 months old are planted in polythene bags with the medium of jungle soil, sand and cattle manure in the proportion of 6:3:1. The bags with cuttings are arranged in a propagation chamber made of a trench of size 2 x 1 x 0.5 m covered over with a thick polythene sheet (500 gauge) spread over a framework of bamboos.

A trench could accommodate about 108 filled up bags of size 22 x 15 cm. Preplanting treatment of the base of cutting with IBA (indole butyric acid) at 5000 ppm enhances early rooting. Under South Indian conditions, cuttings collected during June-July recorded the highest per cent of rooting. Cuttings will root in 3-4 months after planting. Rooted cuttings should be hardened by keeping them under shade for about two months and then can be transplanted into the field.

Training and pruning
The plant is trained either on single stem or multiple stem system. Under South Indian conditions periodical handling and pruning are essential. The type and frequency of pruning have to be decided based on a number of factors like the type of vegetative growth, incidence of pests / diseases, pattern of blossom showers etc. Centering and desuckering are to be carried out for about 5 or 6 years after planting. Removal of the dead and whippy wood is essential during the early years. Mature plants may require medium to severe pruning once in four years.

Usually coffee, both arabica and robusta, is trained on single stem. When the plants reach a desired height of 75 cm for arabica and 105-120 cm for robusta, they are topped i.e., growing apex of the stem is severed. Low topping (60-70 cm) is advocated in areas of severe wind and exposure. Under certain circumstances, multiple stem system is also adopted as in the case of replanted fields or when under-planting is taken up keeping the old plants under multiple stem system.

Dieback refers to death of younger tertiary branches starting from apex progressing downwards as well as dieback from below the tip of branches and proceeding forward and backward from the point of defoliation. The occurrence of dieback is mainly due to adverse climatic and edaphic factors such as higher temperature, higher light intensity and low moisture status of soil.

1. Removal of dead and whippy wood
2. Providing judicious shade by both temporary and permanent shade trees as 70% of daylight is found to be optimum
3. Conservation of soil moisture with thick mulch
4. Foliar application of nutrients
5. Correcting the soil acidity by application of lime

Shade and shade management
Dadap (Erythrina lithosperma) is generally used as a lower canopy in India. It is always planted along with coffee in new clearings. When stakes are planted in June they grow quickly since sufficient moisture will be there in the soil. In areas where the establishment of dadap is difficult due to poor rooting, application of rooting hormones and manuring have been found useful.


Wherever water is available, overhead irrigation by sprinkler system is adopted to a greater advantage during November-January to keep the soil moisture level and in February-April for ensuring blossom as well as backing, if necessary.

Drought management in coffee
Plants affected by drought limit vegetative growth, show floral abnormalities and poor fruit set resulting in reduced yield. Therefore, drought tolerance is an important aspect of coffee productivity. Arabica coffee is more tolerant to drought than robusta. For inducing tolerance in robusta the following nutrient solution can be sprayed @ 1 litre per plant.

Nutrient in 200 litres of water
Urea 1 kg
Super phosphate 1 kg
Muriate of potash 750 g
Zinc sulphate 1 kg

Spraying schedule

1st spray: 45 days after the last rainfall (usually the 2nd fortnight of January)
2nd spray: 30-45 days after the first spray

Foliar application of anti-transpirants like Ralli Dhan 110 @ 200 ml in 200 litres of water (0.1%) is also useful for drought management in coffee.



Fertilizer recommendation for coffee (N:P2O5:K2O, kg/ha)


Time of application
  Pre-blossom (March) Post-blossom,pre-monsoon(May) Mid-monsoon(August) Post-monsoon(October)
1st year 15:10:15 15:10:15 15:10:15
2nd and 3rd year 20:15:20 20:15:20 20:15:20
4th year 30:20:30 30:20:30 30:20:30
Bearing coffee 5 years and above: for less than 1 t/ha crop 40:30:40 40:30:40 20:0:0 40:30:40
For 1 t/ha and above 40:30:40 40:30:40 40:30:40 40:30:40
For less than 1t/ha crop 40:30:40 40:30:40
For 1 t/ha and above 40:30:40 40:30:40 40:30:40



After cultivation

Grass and other weeds should be eradicated in the first year itself by digging or using appropriate weedicide depending on the nature of the weeds. The soil around the seedlings should be mulched properly and shade has to be provided to individual seedlings to protect against direct sun.




Coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei)
Coffee berry borer is the most serious pest of coffee world over. The female beetle bores into the berries through the navel region and makes tunnels in the hard bean and lays about 15 eggs. The larvae feed on the beans, making small tunnels.
A typical pinhole at the tip of the berries indicates the presence of the pest, and it damages young as well as ripe berries. In case of severe infestation, 30 to 80% berries may be affected resulting in heavy crop loss. The coffee berry borer can be controlled by the following methods.

a. Cultural
Timely and complete harvest, collection of gleanings, burying the infested berries and maintaining optimum shade and good drainage can control the pest.

White stem borer (Xylotrechus quadripes)
The adults have two flight periods as they emerge from the pupae during April-May and in September to December/January. As the beetles are active and females lay eggs in the crevices on the main stem of coffee, major efforts to control initial laying of eggs itself is aimed at by swabbing the main stem and the thick primaries with carbaryl 50 WP @ 4 kg in 200 litres of water once or twice (depending upon the severity of the incidence) in April-May or October to December. Apart from this, it is necessary to build up good shade and regularly trace, uproot stump and burn the infested plants. Storing of cut stems is not advisable, as it will advance the flight period.

Shot hole borer (Xylosandrus compactus)
This is a major pest in robusta coffee affecting the secondary and tertiary branches causing considerable damage. Injury to the coffee plants is primarily by the extensive tunneling within the branches, which limits the flow of sap. The affected branches dry up. The presence of withering and dead branches with shot holes is the symptom of attack.


1. Prune the affected twigs 5-8 cm beyond the shot hole and burn. This operation should commence from September onwards, as
soon as the first symptom of attack like dropping of leaves is noticed, and continued as a routine measure at regular intervals.
2. The pest prefers to breed in the suckers during dry period. So remove and destroy all the unwanted / infested suckers during summer.

Mealy bugs (Planococcus sp.)
Mealy bugs damage coffee plants by sucking the sap from the tender branches, nodes, leaves, spikes, berries and roots leading to the debilitation of the plant. In case of root infestation, plants (especially young) become weak, leading to death.


The mealy bug can be controlled by spraying any of the following three insecticides viz. quinalphos, fenthion or fenitrothion. In addition to the above method, the biological control agents like Cryptolaemus montrouzieri (ladybird beetle) and the parasitoid Leptomastix dactylopii have been found effective. Indirect control of the disease can be made by controlling the ants, which spread the infestation.

Green scale (Coccus viridis)
The green scale is a serious sucking pest of coffee particularly arabica.

The chemical control measures include spraying the affected patches with any one of the following insecticides viz. cythion 50 EC @ 200 ml, quinalphos 25 EC @ 120 ml, fenitrothion 50 EC @ 100 ml, fenthion 1000 @ 80 ml, methyl parathion 50 EC @ 120 ml or dimethoate 30 EC @ 170 ml.
(Source: Central Coffee Research Institute, Balehonnur, Chikmagalur Dt., Karnataka)


Disease Management


Leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix)
This is an important disease causing economic loss particularly in arabica coffee. On the lower surface of the infected leaves, small pale yellowish spots appear early after the first rains in the season. These spots soon increase in size and number, and many such spots coalesce at severity causing premature defoliation. Severe defoliation leads to debilitation of the bushes and results in poor cropping in the succeeding seasons.


Spray susceptible coffee with 0.5% Bordeaux mixture or 0.03% ai Plantvax 20 EC 3-4 times a year: Bordeaux mixture 0.5% in February-March as pre- or post-blossom spray, plantvax 20 EC 0.03% ai in May-June as pre-monsoon spray, plantvax 20 EC 0.03% ai or Bordeaux mixture 0.5% in July-August in mid-monsoon spray (if incidence of leaf rust is severe), and plantvax 20 EC 0.03% ai or Bordeaux mixture 0.5% in September-October as post-monsoon spray.

Black rot (Koleroga noxia)
A disease more in occurrence in endemic areas with heavy rainfall, saturated atmosphere with 95-100% RH, thick overhead shade, low over-hanging branches, sheltered from sunlight and wind in valleys or continuous mist during monsoon. The affected bushes have blackening and rotting of leaves, twigs and developing berries. There will be defoliation and berry drop in the affected branches. The entire block affected looks totally debilitated with heavy damage to crop.


Centering and handling of the bushes prior to the onset of monsoon and protecting endemic patches with spraying Bordeaux mixture 1%. If incidence is observed during the monsoon, remove the affected twigs and burn them. Spray with Bordeaux mixture 1% during break in the monsoon.


Plant Protection


Fruit drop
During the developmental stage of berry, 10 to 50 per cent premature fruit drop occurs due to insufficient carbohydrate, auxin-carbohydrate imbalance, nutritional disorders and waterlogging. Many growth regulators have been tried to increase the fruit set and for controlling the pre-mature fruit drop. Following growth regulators could increase the yield when they are given as foliar application 10-15 days after blossom (first spray) and during last week of May before the onset of southwest monsoon (second spray).

Growth regulator
In 200 ml of water
Dose/ha (for 1.5 l)
50 ml
375 ml
50 ml
375 ml
50 ml
375 ml
50 ml
375 ml
50 ml
375 ml
Cytozyme crop
60 ml
450 ml
Ascorbic acid
20 g
150 g

Fruit ripening
Hastening of fruit ripening in coffee could be achieved by spraying ethephon (Ethrel) on mature berries when 10 % natural ripening is observed. By this, ripening can be hastened by 2-4 weeks and in two rounds about 96% ripe fruits could be harvested. The following concentrations are standardized for arabica and robusta plants.

Arabica: 100 to 120 ml per 200 litres of water per 400 plants
Robusta: 40 to 54 ml per 200 litres of water per 267 plants

Lower concentrations are to be used in lower elevations and thin shaded places, whereas higher concentrations are to be used in higher elevation and thick shaded plantations.






KISSAN Kerala Operations Centre, IIITM-K, NILA, Techno park Campus, Thiruvananthapuram
Last Updated on: May 27, 2004 9:49 AM

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