The myriad types of coffee we drink make for a long list. However, whether you enjoy an organic selection, a flavored variety, gourmet blend, or simply black with no cream or sugar, great care must be taken in the growth, processing and distribution of our java to keep it tasty and free from disease.
There are hundreds of bacterial, fungal and pest-caused diseases that can affect a coffee crop. However, the four major coffee plant destroyers are Coffee Leaf Rust, Coffee Berry Disease, Bacterial Blight and Leaf Miner insects.
To learn more about each of these affectations and how they’re treated, keep reading.
Coffee Leaf Rust
Coffee Leaf Rust, also known as Hemileia vastatrix, is a devastating coffee disease that is highly contagious. The disease is carried by wind and rain through spores that come from legions found on the underside of an affected plant.
The disease destroyed Brazil’s coffee crop during the 1970s and has since been found in almost every coffee-growing country in the world.
It is prevented by spraying a fungicide that is copper based. Other countries, including Ethiopia and Sri Lanka, have begun planting a disease-resistant strain of robusta coffee to prevent the spread of Leaf Rust.
Coffee Berry Disease
Coffee Berry Disease, also known as Green berry anthracnose and caused by Colletotirchum coffeeanum, is a fungal-based disease. The fungi grow on affected plants and then spread through wind or splashing rain.
This disease can also be spread by animals. For example, if a coffee picker touches an affected plant, he or she can then spread the disease to every other coffee plant they touch.
The danger of Coffee Berry Disease is that it’s virtually undetectable until the coffee plant blooms. At that point, the fungus becomes aggressive, covering the whole berry and even turning it black.
Typically, this powerful disease is found in Africa, but can be prevented through fungicides and limiting the instance of standing water.
Bacterial Blight, also known as Pseudomanas syringae garcae, is a bacterial disease that flourishes under cold and wet conditions.
Most recently, Bacterial Blight had an incredibly detrimental effect on Kenya’s coffee crop. However, the disease can be nominally prevented with copper-based fungicides.
While Leaf Miners aren’t technically a disease, they are still pests that can devastate a coffee crop. Because these insects are protected by a hard shell and feed right inside the plant itself, they can be very difficult to eradicate with pesticides.
Typically, leaf miner infestations are prevented or treated by planting tastier distraction crops or plants next to and amongst the coffee crop.
For example, in Brazil, smart plantation owners are planting Columbine and Velvet Leaf among their coffee plants to remove the Leaf Miner threat.
Though these diseases do not inherently harm people, they can contribute to lower coffee supplies and higher prices.