New rust resistant coffee variety scores 90 points in Nicaragua COE competition

Centroamericano, part of a new class of F1 hybrid coffee varieties, has proven its quality potential by earning a score of 90 out of 100 points in the world’s leading competition and award for high quality coffees, the Cup of Excellence (COE), in Nicaragua.

The coffee took second place in the Nicaragua competition and was grown by Gonzalo Adán Castillo Moreno. His farm, Las Promesas de San Blas, is in the Northern region of Nueva Segovia, near the border with Honduras. The COE jury, comprised of expert cuppers from nine countries, scored the coffee a 90.50, giving the coffee the nation’s prestigious Presidential Award, which recognizes coffees that score only 90 or above out of a potential 100.

This is the first year that any F1 hybrid variety has placed in a COE competition. F1 hybrid varieties are completely new in coffee and have only recently become commercially available to farmers (and so far only in Central America). They are not yet in widespread production. Nicaragua has a leg up on the adoption of F1 hybrid varieties because testing was done on farms in the country starting as early as 2006, when the varieties were first being developed.

The 90-point score for Moreno’s Centroamericano is especially notable because the variety is resistant to coffee leaf rust, a fungal disease that has devastated wide swaths of coffee production in Central America since an epidemic began in 2012. It is also extremely high yielding. In breeding evaluations, it showed production increases of 22-47% over the standard varieties in the region. It was released in 2010 for farmers in Central America and is planted on roughly 1,000 hectares in the region. Centroamericano is a cross between the Ethiopian landrace variety Rume Sudan and a rust resistant variety called T5296 (used primarily in breeding and not itself in widespread production). The variety was created by a consortium including French research institute CIRAD and a regional network of national coffee institutes in Central America, PROMECAFE.

This combination of exceptionally high cup quality with agronomic traits that reduce risk for farmers –especially coffee leaf rust resistance, high yields and overall vigor – has been elusive in the past. While the agronomic performance of Centroamericano had been demonstrated in numerous field trials, until now the quality potential of F1 hybrids had not been validated by a respected coffee industry institution like the COE.

“The 90+ score from the Cup of Excellence competition in Nicaragua establishes these new F1 varieties as entirely viable at the highest levels of quality,” says Darrin Daniel, executive director for the Alliance for Coffee Excellence.

Twenty-four 30-kilo boxes of Moreno’s COE-winning coffee will be auctioned on 1 June. Information and access to the auction can be found here.

The success of Centroamericano stems from its status as an F1 hybrid. This new group of varieties has been created by crossing genetically distant Arabica parents and using the first-generation (F1) offspring— the most famous F1 hybrids are maize, or corn, hybrids.

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