Renewal Cycles of Coffee Plantations in Colombia: Ensuring Sustainable Growth

In the ever-evolving world of coffee cultivation, small coffee growers in Colombia are increasingly recognizing the need to treat their farms as businesses. To maximize productivity and performance, implementing efficient resource management tools has become essential. Among these tools, the implementation of coffee plantation renewal systems plays a crucial role. This article delves into the workings of coffee renewal cycles in Colombia, highlighting their significance and the insights shared by coffee agronomy experts.

Why is Coffee Renewal Necessary?

Unlike crops with shorter cycles, such as corn or beans, coffee is a perennial plant with a lifespan of around 20 to 25 years under commercial conditions. As coffee plants age, their productivity gradually declines, resulting in increased production costs. Ariel Romero, an experienced professional in rural extension services for the coffee industry, emphasizes the need for agronomic practices to sustain productivity as the plant enters a downward curve.

Understanding the Decline in Productivity:

As coffee plants mature, the internode of the branch, where flowers and subsequently fruits develop, gradually loses viable embryos due to natural growth and exhaustion. Consequently, production shifts towards the tips of the branch and the apical bud known as the “cogollo.” Despite attempts by some growers to extend the plant’s productive life, an aged coffee plantation cannot respond physiologically like a younger plant, explains Héctor Calderón, a technical leader at the Producer Education Program (PECA) at Caravela Coffee.

Importance of Coffee Plantation Renewal:

To maintain optimal productivity and develop robust production systems, coffee growers must establish renewal cycles for their plantations. This ensures the longevity and sustainability of their coffee lots. Ariel emphasizes the need for coffee farmers to view their farms as businesses, making informed decisions based on technical knowledge and planning.

Determining the Right Time for Renewal:

The decision to renew coffee plantations is influenced by various factors that growers must consider. It is crucial to determine the number of harvests in which the coffee bushes in a lot reach maximum average annual production. While factors like variety and quality play a role, Héctor and Ariel suggest that renewal is generally performed between the fifth and sixth year in Colombia. This timing allows for easier harvesting and renewal processes.

Implementing Coffee Plantation Renewal Systems:

Once the appropriate age for renewal is determined, choosing the right time to implement the renewal system becomes vital. Ideally, it is done after the harvest, marking the end of the production cycle. This allows for efficient planning and preparation for the upcoming renewal phase.

Coffee plantation renewal systems are an indispensable tool for coffee growers in Colombia. Recognizing the necessity of treating their farms as businesses, growers can optimize productivity and ensure the longevity of their coffee lots. By understanding the decline in productivity as plants age and implementing renewal cycles at the appropriate time, coffee farmers can sustainably grow their businesses while maintaining the quality and profitability of Colombian coffee.