In this article I will discuss coffee seeds, planting the seeds and transplanting the seedling pairs. In the next post I will show how small coffee trees are transplanted to their final location.
Note: Updated April 22, 2011 to add the new pictures from Matias on transplanting.
While it is possible to grow a coffee tree from green coffee beans, the germination rate (percentage of beans that sprout and grow) would be small. This is because the process to mill and dry green coffee for roasting kills most of the seeds. For planting a commercial coffee seed is used.
These commercial coffee seeds are dry beans with their parchment and a coating to help prevent fungus growth. These seeds are not stripped of the cherry peel in the same way that you peel coffee to be roasted. They are peeled by hand or using a machine with a soft roller in order to prevent damage to the embryo. Also, the seeds are dried in the shade, not directly under the sun like drying coffee to be roasted. The final moisture content of the seed is 25% compared to 11% for the coffee to be roasted.
Seeds are planted in a bed of sifted dirt and covered in banana leaves to protect them and keep them moist. Planting starts in June, with the first rains. The goal is to plant it as early as possible to get as much rain as possible.
1. The soil is sifted, and the ditch above and trunks are there to protect against rain damage.
2. The bed is sprayed with a fungus inhibitor.
3. Seeds are spread out on the beds by hand.
4. Seeds are sprayed again with a fungus inhibitor.
5. Cover seeds with sifted dirt.
6. The seeds are placed on the bed, then covered with a layer of sifted soil. The bed is gently wet down and covered with banana leaves to protect it from rain damage, as well as to keep the soil moist to create the damp, dark conditions for germination to happen. The seeds will be watered daily while they sprout, which is estimated to happen within 5 weeks. A very delicate balance needs to be achieved: enough moisture to allow germination, not too much moisture to generate fungus.
The dry banana leaves need to be just the right amount – not too few, not too many. If we put too many, the weight will stop the little tree from growing erect.
7. This is a stage where the root is strong enough to start lifting the seed up. Soon, all the roots will be fully erect, and the plants can be joined and moved to the rows. The erect seed is key to measure the strength of the sprout; if it is not fully erect, it is considered defective and will not be used.
The seedlings need to be kept moist so we pack them in banana leaves.
As the plants must be kept moist, untreated seeds and seedlings are easily infected with fungus.
Transplanting the seedlings
1. Two seedlings at a time are transplanted to form a pair. In the old days, three seedlings were put together, but it was determined that it actually hinders proper development, so we now use only pairs.
2. The shell of the seed breaks completely to give way to a leaf.
3. Transplanted seedling pairs.
In the next post, we will cover transplanting the seedlings to their permanent position.
Images by Matias Zeledon
> Coffee Tree Final Transplant