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Coffee Board & ISRO Team Up to Develop Climate-Resistant Coffee Varieties

“ISRO will install the technology at one of our farms' technology evaluation centres and monitor the data for the next two years. Such carbon sequestration data will help our growers command a premium in markets such as Europe,” according to KG Jagadeesha, CEO and Secretary of the Coffee Board

Shivam Dwivedi
Coffee Beans
Coffee Beans

The State-run Coffee Board plans to focus on developing new varieties that will be resistant to changing climatic patterns and provide a new impetus to the country's coffee industry. In recent years, coffee growers in the country have borne the brunt of changing climatic patterns. The number of extreme weather events affecting growers, such as excessive rain in a short period or deficit rainfall, is increasing.

"With climate change here to stay, one new line of research we are beginning is how to develop climate resistant coffee varieties that perform the same whether it is drought or flood." ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) has expressed interest. They have technology that can help us understand climate change better, allowing our scientists to breed better varieties," said KG Jagadeesha, CEO and Secretary of the Coffee Board.

Next week, the Coffee Board and ISRO will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on breeding climate-resilient varieties and assessing the carbon sequestration potential in coffee, among other things.

The Central Coffee Research Institute (CCRI) in Chikmagaluru district of Karnataka conducts plant-related research activities under the Board in the areas of plant breeding, agronomy, agriculture chemistry and soil science, and plant physiology, pathology, entomology, and post-harvest technology, among others.

CCRI operates a network of research stations in the major coffee-growing districts of Kodagu, Visakhapatnam, Wayanad, Dindigul, and Karbi Anglong. Until now, the focus of coffee research and breeding has been on increasing yields and developing resistance to pests and diseases. "We've never tested them for climate resistance," Jagadeesha said, adding that the breeding will be done using the country's existing germplasm collection.

"Our main research centres at Balehonnur and five other sub-centers have a good germplasm collection of coffees." Furthermore, we can obtain germplasm from old varieties in some old estates. "Our scientists will finalize what characteristics of the plant will lend climate resistance character to the coffee plants and look at breeding them using techniques such as marker-assisted breeding," Jagadeesha said.

The Board will budget for the investments needed to begin the collaborative research with ISRO, which will also assess carbon sequestration potential in coffee-growing regions. In contrast to major producers such as Brazil and Vietnam, India is one of the few countries where coffee is grown in the shade of trees.

Coffee emits carbon dioxide, but it is a net carbon-deficit crop. Coffee is a carbon sink when grown under two tiers of shade trees and under an integrated cropping system. There is no scientific evidence of how much carbon is sequestered. ISRO has developed technology to determine how much carbon is released and how much is absorbed by plants.

“ISRO will install the technology at one of our farms' technology evaluation centres and monitor the data for the next two years. Such carbon sequestration data will help our growers command a premium in markets such as Europe,” according to Jagadeesha.

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