What is meant by “coffee rust”?

coffee rust

“Coffee rust” is a disease which now threatens nearly all of world’s coffee producing nations, and is one of the largest threats to coffee production in the entire world.

It is a relatively new disease given the lifespan of coffee crops throughout history, however it is not exactly a new problem as the first reports of coffee rust come from English explorers who came across the disease in 1861 in East Africa. But why is the disease called “rust”, and where does it come from?

The name coffee “rust” comes from the yellow-brown rings of lesions which appear on the leaves of the plants that have been affected by the disease. Just look up a picture of a coffee plant infected by this disease and you will quickly see where the term “coffee rust” originated, as it does look very much like the leaves of the plant are rusting.

These “rust” spots are actually fungi; the most common strain of this fungus is called Hemileia Vastatrix, and another common variety found in West Africa is known as H. Coffeicola.

Despite the quaint name the disease is actually quite devastating, and spread so quickly that as soon as it develops the entire crop is pretty much a write off. In some cases the entire future of a plantation can be compromised for good by a single outbreak.

Can anything be done about this devastating disease?

Sadly, once the disease develops it is virtually impossible to salvage the crop, and in most cases quarantining the crop so that the fungus doesn’t spread to any additional crops is about the most that can be done.

Quarantining is primarily about ensuring that no plants whatsoever are removed from the crop so that the fungus is not able to spread. Unfortunately even this is sometimes not enough because the disease can travel through the air, jumping from crop to crop and spreading like wildfire.

Generally speaking farmers will destroy an infected crop using herbicides so that the spores don’t spread through the air, and in many cases they will destroy even the surrounding crops so that the spores have nowhere to jump to.

One hopes that the fungus colonies will remain isolated and eventually die off without spreading from their site of origin, but the disease spreads so easily that there is never any guarantee. Accordingly it is very important for plant importers to check each and every plant’s leaves for “rust” before accepting any of them.

There are some preventative measures, fortunately. During wet seasons, fungicides can be applied to the leaves which may help to prevent the spores from latching onto the plant to begin with. Planting crops at higher altitudes, in cooler regions, or in shady areas also reduces the likelihood of the plants being infected by the disease, however with global temperatures rising as they are these ideal cooler regions may become ever scarcer.

Finally, there are some strands of Robusta coffee that have been developed to be resistant to the disease, however it has been generally found that these strands of coffee tend to produce quality of a lesser quality.

Given the severity of this devastating disease which has now become a worldwide issue, there are many researchers trying to develop methods for beating it back. And although climate change is gradually putting more and more coffee plantations at risk, hope still remains that new technology may be able to stamp out coffee rust before it becomes too late.

Pierro commercial coffee machines are an Australian owned company manufacturing commercial coffee machines specifically designed for the Australian coffee industry.

If you are  looking to buy or rent a coffee machine for your work environment which is simple to use and produces 100% pure espresso then our Pierro corporate coffee machine range is perfect for you.

For more information on The Pierro coffee machine range, for purchase or rental,  please contact us direct or feel free to visit our Sydney head office and showroom at 8 – 12 Robert Street, Rozelle NSW 2039.

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