This past coffee harvest, UMF made its first steps toward producing an organic fertilizer from coffee pulp. Turning the fruit of the coffee cherry that encases the bean into an organic fertilizer helps us promote environmental and economic sustainability in coffee production. To give an idea of the importance of this, every kilogram of untreated coffee pulp contaminates the environment as much as a day’s worth of human excrement. It has been several months since we began treating coffee pulp from our processing plant, and we are excited to say that the fertilizer is ready to be applied.
There are several different ways to produce organic fertilizer from coffee pulp; the main two ways are through a vermiculture and through accelerated degradation by addition of micro-organisms. UMF did a trial of three different ways to break down toxic coffee pulp:
We spread the pulp, gave it a few weeks for initial decomposition (when the temperature of the pulp and moisture content can be harmful to worms), and then added a bunch of California Red Worms, provided to us by IHCAFE. These worms eat and digest the coffee pulp, slowly breaking it down.
We sprayed the coffee pulp with BioAG, a commercially available, certified organic product of enzymes and micro-organisms. This product breaks down the pulp through a mixture of yeasts, sugars, and bacteria that digest the pulp.
With the same goal as commercial products, the home-made organic product is made using bacteria and micro-organisms found in coffee farms and then cultivated.
|Gilberto and Martir take samples for soil analysis.|
We took samples from each of the three trials and prepared them for soil analysis. These samples are on their way to the IHCAFE soil analysis lab where the three trials will be tested for macronutrients, micronutrients, and soil structure. Once we have these results, we will be able to compare ease of use, cost, and quality of organic fertilizer produced by each of the three methods.
|Farmers learn about growing micro-organisms at a training|
with UMF, USAID and UMA.
We have already hosted a training session for farmers to show the different ways of producing organic fertilizer from coffee pulp.
We will post results from the soil analysis when they come back (generally 30-60 days), and we are excited to begin preparation for this year’s coffee harvest, when we plan to expand practical trials and research in coffee production. This will allow us to better assist farmers as they strive for better quality and environmental sustainability.