Rust Fungus: A Coffee grower’s nightmare

Latin American Coffee Growers Seriously Affected

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The International Coffee Organization (ICO) is reporting that over 50% of coffee plantations in Central and South America have been devastated by a coffee rust fungus, also called La Roya. While U.S. coffee prices have not yet been affected by this crop killer, we can expect to see a jump in green bean pricing in 2014. According to the ICO, an estimated $500 million in product has been destroyed by La Roya so far this year.

Coffee rust is caused by the fungus Hemileia vasatrix, which causes powdery yellow-orange spots on the leaves of the plant. These leaf spots eventually turn brown and infected leaves fall off of the plant prematurely, which in turn weakens and may eventually kill the coffee plant.

A single rust postule on a leaf may contain as many as 150,000 spores. These powdery spores are easily spread on wind and splashing water, making even one infected plant a danger to the coffee farm or finca agronomic and economic health.

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