OCT 19, 2018 11:19 AM PDT

Latin American Coffee Harvests Threatened by Fungus

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

A fungus called hemileia vastatrix causes a plant disease called coffee leaf rust. It affects the two major commercial species of coffee, Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora, and likely many other coffee species.

Coffee leaf rust causes yellow spots to form on the leaves of coffee plants, and eventually, lesions that cause the leaves to drop from the plant prematurely; it devastates the bean harvest. There is no cure for the disease and attempts to thwart it may only be encouraging resistant varieties to evolve.

Related: Sequence of Arabica Coffee Publicly Released

First discovered by westerners in 1861, this devastating fungus has been creating a crisis in Latin America. An outbreak that began in the coffee-producing region in 2012 has spread, with up to seventy percent of farms now affected, and an estimated 1.7 million farmhands out of work. 

Sources: The American Phytopathological Society, NPR

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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