Systemic treatment suggested against roya

Some 10,000 hectares in Costa Rica are infected with roya de café but growers hope that new systemic treatments will turn the tide.

Coffee rust, known as roya de cafe (Hemileia vastatrix), is worse in other countrys but Costa Rica has been waging war on the fungus that cuts production.

Growers were told that a systemic fungicide treatment can rob the roya of its sustenance because it is within the coffee plant. Currently most growers are using sprays and other forms of contact fungicides.

The suggestion came at a session organized by the Asociación de Profesionales en Enfermedades de  Plantas in conjunction with the Colegio de Ingenieros Agrónomos.

The Centro de Investigaciones en Café reported that there has been an increased incidence of the fungus and it appears to be more aggressive due to temperatures and rainfall.

There is an extensive effort to find ways to eliminate the fungus. The loss in production throughout Central America has been staggering.

Coffee producers were told that even if the systemic fungicides are more expensive, the use is cost-effective in the long run. The products are sold by firms such as Basf, Syngenta and BioQuim, the session heard.

Coffee rust is the most important disease of coffee worldwide. It was first discovered in the vicinity of Lake Victoria in East Africa in 1861 and was later identified and studied in Sri Lanka in 1867, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The disease soon spread to much of southeast Asia and eventually throughout the southern, central and western coffee-growing regions of Africa.

Coffee rust was not known in the Western Hemisphere until 1970, when it was found in Bahia, Brazil. Since 1970, the disease has spread to every coffee-growing country in the world, according to the Coffee Research Institute.

The rust mainly infects coffee leaves, but also young fruit and buds. Coffee rust spores are spread by the wind and the rain from lesions on the underside of leaves.

Some experts believe that the conversion of growers to sun coffee by removing the protective taller trees in the plantations may have contributed to the success of the fungus.

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