Colombian coffee leaders are urging growers to turn to disease-resistant coffee varieties upon the discovery of new, more aggressive variants of the coffee leaf rust (CLR) fungus.
The troubling findings come from Cenicafé, the Colombian national coffee research institution of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC). The group says it has identified six new races (a.k.a. subspecies) of leaf rust in the country, plus nine new variants of the destructive fungus.
The FNC estimates that approximately 84% of the planted coffee area in Colombia already comprises disease-resistant coffee varieties, although the group is reminding growers that resistance is not the same as immunity.
“The Hemileia vastatrix fungus that causes rust, like any other living microorganism in adverse and diverse environments, can change and mutate in both susceptible and resistant varieties of coffee, its only host,” Carlos Ariel Ángel, researcher at Cenicafé’s Phytopathology Discipline, said in an announcement by the FNC yesterday. “This selection and reaction pressure is a normal dynamic biological process of the fungus, trying to adapt to survive. Hence, just over 50 races have been identified in the world and variants continue to be identified in different countries.”
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