Seasonal and altitudinal differences in coffee leaf rust epidemics on coffee berry disease-resistant varieties in Southwest Ethiopia
Coffea arabica is native to the Afromontane forests of southwestern Ethiopia, the leading African country in Arabica coffee production. The intensity of coffee leaf rust (CLR), a fungal disease of growing concern to coffee farmers, was assessed in eight coffee berry disease-resistant C. arabica varieties planted at three different altitudes. Disease variables assessed were CLR prevalence (percent of infected plants), incidence (percent rusted leaves) and severity (percent leaf area affected) at four times within a year (Nov, Jan, Apr and Jun). The intensity of CLR epidemics was highest at the lowland and lowest at the highland location. We hypothesize that inoculum may be limited by cooling conditions that negatively affects fungal sporulation. CLR intensity was highest at harvest time (Nov) and decreased during the following dry season, reaching zero values in Apr and Jun. All coffee varieties were similarly susceptible to CLR. Our data suggest that more efforts should be employed by breeders to develop CLR-resistant coffee varieties, and that shifting cultivation from lower to higher altitudes may contribute to achieve to higher yields due to lower impact of CLR epidemics.
KeywordsCoffea arabica L. Hemileia vastatrix Epidemics Host plant resistance
We want to express our gratitude to VLIR-UOS, the Institutional University Cooperation programme between the Flemish University and Jimma University for funding this research work. We are also indebted to Shafi Abba Fixa, Biya Abba Macca and Awol, the owners of the coffee farms at three different locations in the Mana district to let us work in the coffee farm and provide all the necessary information during the research work.
GD, AD and GB designed the study. GD performed the field work. OH and GD drafted the manuscript. All authors contributed to data interpretation. KH and GD performed the statistical analyses. All authors gave final approval for publication.
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