Research: Shade coffee = more pollinators = higher fruit set

by on October 11, 2008

Pollinator diversity increases fruit production in Mexican coffee plantations: The importance of rustic management systems. C. H. Vergara and E. I. Badano. 2009. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 129: 117-123.

Although arabica coffee is self-pollinating, it can benefit from the activity of insect pollinators. This study looked at pollinators in coffee farms in Veracruz, Mexico that used various types of shade management. Rustic shade had the highest number of pollinating species (12), closely followed by polyculture shade (11). Sun and specialized shade (shade monoculture) had the least number of species (5 and 4).  The more shaded farms also had significantly higher fruit set, which was positively related to the diversity of pollinators.

This has important economic implications. Coffee farmers need to see the economic advantages to any change in their management practices. It is often believed that shade results in lower yields. In this case, we see that increased shade (especially diversity in the shade management) encourages a wider diversity of pollinating insects, which in turn leads to higher fruit set in the coffee and thus higher yields.

Photo of bee pollinating coffee by Ganesh Subramaniam.

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Revised on October 30, 2010

Posted in Research on coffee growing

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