Selecting good seeds
Selection of good quality planting material begins with choosing a variety suitable for the climate. Arabica coffee does well at high altitudes, while robusta coffee grows well in hot and humid areas, especially at lower altitudes.
The prevalence of the berry borer and coffee rust are important indicators as to whether the coffee variety is suited to the site. This is why it is important to seek a local extension workers’ advice before determining which variety to plant.
Varieties which are resistant to common diseases such as coffee wilt, coffee berry or coffee leaf rust should be selected.
Improved varieties can be obtained through local extension offices or coffee research stations and certified nurseries across the country. On average, a seedling costs sh300.
Propagating coffee seed
In Uganda, coffee is commonly propagated by seed. This is because it is easy and quick to raise seedlings by seed.
All you do is select dry coffee seeds and plant them in a nursery bed. However, this coffee takes longer to mature than vegetatively propagated coffee, which is also known as cloning.
Vegetative propagation has the advantage that coffee will carry all the qualities of the parent plant. Cuttings are ideally obtained from selected mother gardens of desired varieties.
Coffee plants raised from clonal cuttings bear berries 24-36 months after transplanting.
Spacing coffee trees
The standard spacing is 10x10ft between trees. This will give you about 450 trees per acre. However, there is also what is called the ‘Brazilian model’ where over 1,300 trees are planted on an acre. This model improves yields per acre by three times.
The spacing is reduced to 4x4ft in the field. However, in the Brazilian model, the plantation is watered and fertilised three times more compared to the standard spacing.
You can apply fertilisers in the pits or holes before and after planting. Using organic fertilisers is highly recommended since it does not leave chemical residues on the crops. This can be livestock dung, for example.
A hole takes at least a wheelbarrow of the livestock dung. The shamba should be fertilised at least twice a year, preferably before each rainy season.
Weeds can be controlled both manually and chemically. Manual control includes digging them out or slashing them, while chemically, it means using herbicides to kill the weeds.
However, when picking which herbicides to use, consult farming extension workers in your area.
Note that there are herbicides that kill all weeds and there are those that are selective. Weeding is done at least three times a year, while spraying may be done twice a year.