América Central, Colombia

The coffee rust crises in Colombia and Central America (2008-2013): impacts, plausible causes and proposed solutions

Avelino, J., M. Cristancho, S. Georgiou, P. Imbach, L. Aguilar, G. Bornemann, P. Läderach, F. Anzueto, A. J. Hruska; C. Morales
2015

Food Security 2015; 7(2):303-321

Resumen

Coffee rust is a leaf disease caused by the fungus, Hemileia vastatrix. Coffee rust epidemics, with intensities higher than previously observed, have affected a number of countries including: Colombia, from 2008 to 2011; Central America and Mexico, in 2012–13; and Peru and Ecuador in 2013. There are many contributing factors to the onset of these epidemics e.g. the state of the economy, crop management decisions and the prevailing weather, and many resulting im- pacts e.g. on production, on farmers’ and labourers’ income and livelihood, and on food security. Production has been considerably reduced in Colombia (by 31 % on average dur- ing the epidemic years compared with 2007) and Central America (by 16 % in 2013 compared with 2011–12 and by 10 % in 2013–14 compared with 2012–13). These reductions have had direct impacts on the livelihoods of thousands of smallholders and harvesters. For these populations, particular- ly in Central America, coffee is often the only source of in- come used to buy food and supplies for the cultivation of basic grains. As a result, the coffee rust epidemic has had indirect impacts on food security. The main drivers of these epidemics are economic and meteorological. All the intense epidemics experienced during the last 37 years in Central America and Colombia were concurrent with low coffee profitability pe- riods due to coffee price declines, as was the case in the 2012–13 Central American epidemic, or due to increases in input costs, as in the 2008–11 Colombian epidemics. Low profitability led to suboptimal coffee management, which re- sulted in increased plant vulnerability to pests and diseases. A common factor in the recent Colombian and Central American epidemics was a reduction in the diurnal thermal amplitude, with higher minimum/lower maximum temperatures (+ 0.1 °C/-0.5 °C on average during 2008–2011 compared to a low coffee rust incidence period, 1991–1994, in Chinchiná, Colombia; +0.9 °C/-1.2 °C on average in 2012 compared with prevailing climate, in 1224 farms from Guatemala). This like- ly decreased the latency period of the disease. These epi- demics should be considered as a warning for the future, as they were enhanced by weather conditions consistent with climate change. Appropriate actions need to be taken in the near future to address this issue including: the development and establishment of resistant coffee cultivars; the creation of early warning systems; the design of crop management systems adapted to climate change and to pest and disease threats; and socio-economic solutions such as training and organisational strengthening.

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