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May 12, 2011

Uganda - CWD Resistant Coffee Hybrids Awaiting Funds for Commercialization

Coffee Bushes
Photo Courtesy of NewsAfrica.com
 On 10 May 2011, SciDev.Net reported that new, traditionally hybridized coffee varieties resistant to a devasting coffee fungus were being delayed from commercialization due to funding issues. 

New coffee hybrids were created three years to resist the fungal coffee wilt disease (CWD).  They have yet to be released commercially primarily because the Ugandan govenment has not allocated the $1 million dollars needed to propagate seedlings for distribution.

According to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, CWD destroys approximately 200 million coffee plants annually in Uganda at an estimated cost of US$27 million. 

The disease-resistant coffee hybrids were developed by the state-run Coffee Research Institute (CORI).  There are 7 new varieties described under the code name kituza R1–7.

According to Pascal Musoli, chief investigator on the CORI project, Uganda's coffee plants began to suffer from CWD in 1993.  One of Uganda's main exports is coffee robusta grown on plantations in western Uganda.  By 2002, "the agriculture ministry and the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) surveyed the country to establish the extent of CWD spread and damage. More than 50 percent of the plantations were found wiped out," Musoli said.

The disease resistant coffee hybrids were created using coffee genes from varieties that were grown in Uganda in the 1930s and stored in a special seed bank collection administered by Uganda's NARO.  According to Musoli, "using conventional breeding we crossed these traits to susceptible robusta coffee varieties, boosting their anti-fungal immunity."

The Director of CORI, Africano Kangire, wants to raise and plant two million plantlets as soon as possible. 

James Musule, a coffee farmer in central Uganda and chair of the Namayumba Coffee Farmers' Association said that "farmers are eagerly waiting for the new varieties ... we expected policymakers to quickly support its mass multiplication and dissemination."

For more see: Wamboga-Mugirya, Peter. "Disease-resistant coffee stuck in Ugandan labs," SciDev.Net, 10 May 2011.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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