The role of water in coffee cultivation
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The role of water in coffee cultivation is pivotal. For coffee plants to thrive and withstand weather conditions and pests effectively, farmers must provide the necessary nutrients and a suitable living environment. Alongside factors such as soil, humidity, sunlight, and others, water is also a crucial element directly influencing the growth process of coffee plants.
Demand for the water quantity of coffee plants
Coffee plants typically have a shallow, drought-sensitive root system concentrated in the 0-30 cm soil layer, making their drought resistance significantly lower compared to other perennial crops.
After pollination, coffee cherries enter a “dormant” stage that lasts for three months. During this period, the cherries do not grow in size or weight. Following this period, the cherries undergo rapid development, requiring ample water and nutrients. If the fruit development stage coincides with a sufficiently rainy season, it facilitates optimal growth and high yields. However, in regions with prolonged dry seasons like the Central Highlands in Vietnam, farmers need to supplement irrigation to ensure effective cultivation. Failure to do so may result in an inability to control the flowering of the plants, leading to low and unstable productivity, and potentially a lost harvest if conditions are unfavorable.
The role of water in coffee cultivation
Farmers need to ensure timely and adequate supply of water for the crops
Water can significantly impact the productivity and yield of crops through its effects on flowering and fruiting.
The Role of Water in Flowering
When adequately irrigated, coffee plants exhibit robust growth and achieve high yields. Sufficient water supply enhances the horizontal branch length by increasing the number and length of nodes, expanding leaf area by 45%, resulting in better leaf retention compared to non-irrigated plants. This also improves nutrient absorption for nurturing ripe cherries.
For Arabica coffee, water contributes to a 48-57% increase in flowering productivity. Particularly during dry periods, full irrigation can lead to an 85-95% boost in productivity compared to non-irrigated areas. These statistics underscore the substantial role and significant contribution of water in flowering and yield enhancement.
Moreover, water quantity plays a role in controlling the flowering period, potentially shortening the harvest time. As the plant prepares for budding, it undergoes continuous water stress for several months. Farmers can manipulate this timeframe by allowing the plant to experience water shortage pressure before irrigating, thus potentially reducing the harvest period.
To synchronize flower blooming, it is crucial to determine the right time for the initial irrigation when the flower buds have fully differentiated. Farmers should irrigate when flower buds have fully developed on the outermost nodes of the branches, reaching a length of 1.5 cm, displaying an ivory color, and leaves begin to wither during the day. Typically, the moisture level for irrigation is set higher than that for withered plants. The moisture level for irrigation in the 0-30 cm soil layer is determined to be around 27% for basaltic soil.
Although irrigation should not occur too early when flower buds are not fully differentiated, if the plant shows temporary signs of withering, leaves drop during the day, and soil moisture below 27%, immediate irrigation is recommended to prevent damage to the coffee plants. Delayed irrigation can lead to plant exhaustion, leaf shedding, branch drying, poor flowering, and reduced fruiting.
The Role of Water in Fruiting
Six weeks after flowering is a critical period when the coffee cherries undergo rapid development, determining the final size of the cherries and, consequently, the coffee bean size. Water contributes to increasing the size of coffee cherries, influencing the overall yield. While it has a minimal impact on total productivity, it significantly boosts the productivity of AA and AB-sized beans compared to years with insufficient water supply. The growth of Arabica and Robusta coffee shoots occurs slowly during the cool, dry season and rapidly during the warm, rainy season. Thus, water plays a decisive role in supporting growth recovery after the water-stress-induced growth inhibition phase.”
Challenges in Watering Coffee Plants for Farmers
Weather conditions are not always favorable, supporting the cultivation efforts of farmers. Prolonged drought months can hinder coffee plant growth, significantly reducing productivity. Not all plants respond to water as expected. In high temperatures (>26 degrees Celsius), coffee plants close stomata on leaves, ceasing water uptake, even when there is sufficient water in the soil.
Moreover, maintaining an irrigation system requires a relatively large budget, and not every farmer has the means to afford these expenses. Establishing an irrigation system necessitates, at a minimum, a reliable water source, a filtration system, pumps, an energy supply, and a considerable amount of equipment such as water sprayers, as well as labor to operate them when needed.
In summary, the News has presented the role of water in the coffee cultivation process. A reasonable water supply combined with fertilizer application provides nutrients, enhancing coffee plant productivity when measured over the same land area.