Selection of good quality planting material begins with the selection of suitable coffee species for the local climate.
Arabica coffee does well at higher altitudes, while robusta coffee grows better in hotter and more humid areas, especially at lower altitudes. However, the prevalence of the berry borer and coffee rust are important indicators as to whether the coffee variety is suited to the site conditions.
In addition to the species, varieties which are resistant to common diseases like coffee wilt disease, coffee berry disease or coffee leaf rust should be selected. Improved varieties can be obtained through local extension offices or coffee research stations.
- Top–dressing with animal manure is also recommended at about six months before main flowering to improve growth and productivity. Compost is best applied in the planting holes of young coffee seedlings.
- There is also a variety of factory–made soil amendments that are suitable for use in organic agriculture. These can be obtained from certified agri-inputs stores.
- To avoid spread of diseases, coffee husks from milling machines should not be used unless the farmer is sure of the source of the milled coffee.
- Obtain good-sized, very ripe berries from pest and disease-free high yielding trees. Check the viability of the seeds by putting the berries in a bucket of water. Select only the berries that sink.
- Seeds can be either directly placed into plastic bags, filled with a good mixture of compost and topsoil or in a nursery bed to produce better seedlings.
- Construct a shade above the bed, before sowing the seeds in rows. Then water them regularly.
- Seedlings will be ready to transplant to polybags in about eight weeks, when they have two–three pairs of leaves.
Putting seedlings into polybags ensures minimal disturbance to roots during final transplanting to the field. It also makes long distance transportation of seedlings more convenient.
- Transplant the seedlings to the garden when they have six–eight pairs of leaves in about five–six months. Make sure that you select only healthy and vigorously growing seedlings with dark green well-formed leaves for planting.
Planting legumes helps improve nitrogen levels in the soil.
Leguminous cover crops such as jack beans or lablab can be planted as under–storey crops in the space between coffee plants.
They will provide mulching material to cover the soil, suppress weeds and control soil erosion. However, cover crops should be pruned regularly so that they do not compete with the coffee plants.