What would Spring be without flowers? Imagine if you will plants at the point of blooming, only to see them die. Coffee Leaf Rust devastated crops in Central and South America, up to as much as 25%! For countries who base 80% of their GNP on coffee, that’s nearly as drastic as the reduced oil prices in other coffee producing countries like Ecuador.
The amazing fragrance of orange blossoms promise wonderful fruit to come. Equally white coffee blossoms on trees give a good indication of cherries to come, without the strong aroma. When rains have been sufficient then blooms and cherries will be abundant. With no other source of water, rains are crucial at the beginning of the “wet” season, and a reason for celebration.
Years when rains are late or there’s a drought abundant blossoms are not the sight you would see. These flowers do not come just once a year, but continue after every rainfall. Normally there are blossoms, green, yellow and red cherries all at the same time. Excessive rain can be just as damaging as not enough. Fungus, like Coffee Leaf Rust, is just one of several threats that affect coffee harvests.
The gorgeous coffee blossoms will soon be followed by small green buds that will grow and turn into green coffee cherries. In time these change to a yellow color, and then gradually become a bright red as they mature, ready to be harvested. When leaves turn yellow and drop of the limb, no fruit follows. This happens if the fungus attacks the trees.
The white blooms don’t last long soon falling after just two or three days, making the ground appear as though there had been snow. Unlike the strong aroma in orange groves, these do not have a exceptional scent at all, yet give off a gentle perfume somewhere between that of gardenia and orange. How interesting if the aroma were focused on the beans inside the cherry!
In Ecuador, for most of the coffee belt, there is a dry season followed by the rainy season, or you could say “wet” and “dry.” It could also be defined as Summer and Winter, as the wet months tend to be warmer and the dry months colder. These seasons are the opposite of our cold and warm seasons. That also depends on which side of the equator you find yourself.
During the dry months the coffee trees are stressed because of little rainfall, so blossoms are not abundant as during the wet season. Even though there are blossoms, which turn into green coffee cherries, there is little to harvest. The on time arrival of the rains is crucial to having a good crop of coffee, which makes the farmers totally dependent on Nature.
Experimentation is going on in some areas with dispersion and drip irrigation, as a method to avoid dependency on Nature, and improve the possibility of a second crop. Even though a second crop is possible, it would be far be less than the main harvest in the months of June and July. For this reason with the exception of certain areas that receive greater rainfall, a second harvest isn’t economically sound.
Coffee trees loaded with blossoms are an important sight, as it indicates what sort of crop can be expected. Though they may only last a few days, those blossoms are always a welcome sight, enough so that it causes some to dance with thankfulness. It’s not uncommon to see celebrations break out around mid-October when the first rains come after the dry spell.
One of the greater challenges in the coffee producing regions is agricultural practices that are basic, yet habitually overlooked. Coffee trees will produce their fruit with little assistance, causing a very lackadaisical attitude with many farmers. Simple methods such as pruning, plus the use of organic compost and fertilizer, could nearly double, even triple a harvest.
Coffee blossoms are a good sign when trees are loaded. What remains to be seen will be at what point farmers catch on to changing methods for increase production, using simple methods to do so. Change is easy. Equally so is not changing. Seeing first hand the apathy towards change, can demoralize the most ardent promoter.