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They’re Growing Coffee In Texas
Most coffee is made from beans harvested in South and Central America, Kenya, Sumatra, or Hawaii. Coffee plants like cool mountain slopes with slightly acidic and well-drained soil. They like a canopy of trees above them and fresh rain.
    So why are researchers trying to grow coffee plants in a warm, dry southern Texas valley with poorly drained, alkaline clay soil, where they get watered with salty Rio Grand water? Dr. Juan Anciso, an Extension horticultural professor, can answer that question.
    Dr. Anciso is growing many different coffee varieties from around the world near Weslaco, Texas. The plants are being grown for research and education. High on the research list is a better understanding of the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, which causes coffee rust, the most economically destructive coffee disease in the world.
    Rust is an especially significant problem for South and Central America. Part of the problem with the rapid spread of the fungus is the lack of genetic diversity in coffee plants. Other factors such as poor horticulture and agriculture practices also contribute.
    Anciso says there are only 35 recorded varieties of coffee plants in the world, not many for a global crop. In the 1600’s, Carribbean plantations were populated with just a few plants from Yemen. Those plants served as the basis for much of the coffee now grown in Central and South America.
    The Texas researchers are helping graduate students from coffee growing countries learn better horticultural practices such as canopy pruning and the physiology of fungus with the goal of breeding more disease resistant varieties and specific fungicides.
    What are the chances of someday seeing coffee farms in North America? Anciso says probably not likely in the foreseeable future. Coffee is very labor intensive. Ripe seeds need to be picked almost daily from a cluster of unripe seeds making mechanical harvesting impossible. In millions of small farms around the world coffee growing is truly a family business with children, parents and grandparents all working together.
    However, coffee plants can grow in many areas of the United States, so those who want a truly fresh cup of coffee can have a potted plant or two on the patio.
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dr. Juan Anciso, Texas A & M AgriLife Extension; (j-anciso@tamu.edu; ph 956 968-5581).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #1