Farm updates — the good news and the worrisome news

We did our first dry milling last week, a portion of the 2020 harvest. We’re waiting to finish harvesting, wet milling, and drying/aging parchment to do our final, larger dry milling. I’m very happy to report that so far we already have 23% more cherry than we did in 2019. We aren’t yet done harvesting (maybe one more small picking), but there isn’t much left. The photo for this post shows one of the trees that still has berries. The trees look worn out, plus we’re exiting Kona’s rainy season (opposite of Hilo and the rest of the state, who are just entering theirs), so they’re thirsty. We were fortunate to have good rain both last year and this year.

However, as I mentioned two posts ago, we now have coffee leaf rust (CLR) to contend with. At the time of writing, there was tentative CLR in Hilo, the other side of our island; that was determined not to be CLR. But in the meantime there has been confirmed CLR found in the Kona region, in Holualoa. Our address is Holualoa because that’s the post office that serves us, but we are actually in Honalo, a few miles south of Holualoa. Still, very close. Much closer than Hilo or Maui.

We are currently putting together our plan to either treat or help prevent the spread of CLR.  In an effort to learn more about spraying techniques, we are going to be spraying one of the approved fungicides as a preventive measure.  This allows us to fine tune our spray practices and also to potentially curb any CLR that may be present before it becomes an issue.  This is the scary prospect we’re looking at:

Over a three- to five-month period, one CLR lesion can produce upwards of 400,000 spores that become airborne and easily spread throughout a farm and between farms. If left untreated, berry production and foliage losses caused by CLR on non-resistant coffee varieties can be significant, ranging between 30% and 80%. Yield is completely lost when the tree is killed.

University of Hawai’i at Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

Sigh. We must rise to the occasion and think resiliency. Just like with COVID-19. It’s here. We have to deal with it wisely, study the science, and learn from others’ experiences how not to get infected, how not to spread it, and best practices to follow if we do get it.

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