Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Harvest is over, but the learning continues

Coffee has been off the trees for barely a month and already we are thinking about next harvest. May and June is the time to prepare coffee fields, including pruning, stumping, fertilizing, and targeting plant diseases such as coffee leaf rust. Due to the leaf rust plague, it is particularly critical this year that coffee plants receive sufficient nutrition to fight the fungus and produce new leaves and fruit.

UMF field officers attend a Honduran
coffee institute training.
UMF's field officers have been receiving and giving trainings about coffee field recovery from leaf rust. They identify plants that have died – these must be taken out and new ones planted. If a plant is still living (even if it has no leaves), a farmer can prune or stump the plant and hope for new growth. If the plant has multiple trunks and some leaves remaining, cutting down just one of the trunks allows the plant to continue producing leaves and fruit at the same time as new growth occurs.

Gilberto shows a farmer how to cut back a 
coffee plant that was affected by leaf rust.
Martir, Pedro and Gilberto have been visiting coffee fields in La Unión to analyze plants and recommend what actions the farmer should take. The appropriate action is important, since each of these repairs comes with a different expectation as to when the tree will next bear fruit, and therefore become profitable for the farmer.

Even after coffee harvest and processing, UMF's beneficio continues to serve as a training center for farmers and visitors. Recently, third-grade students from La Unión's bilingual Abundant Life school spent a morning at the beneficio. They learned about how we process and dry coffee, how we collect and reuse water, and how we treat coffee wastewater and pulp (using microorganisms and red worms) to turn it from a pollutant into organic fertilizer. Below are photos from their visit:

Martir shows the students how the 
coffee de-pulping machine works.
The students see how microorganisms grow.
Gilberto shows the students how red worms break down coffee pulp into soil.
The students learn how to treat coffee wastewater to keep it from polluting waterways.

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