Guatemala introduces coffee plant resistant to rust fungus

Guatemala City, Jul 26 (EFE).- Guatemala's National Coffee Association, or Anacafe, announced the existence of a new variety of coffee plant immune to roya, a fungus that causes coffee rust and which damaged crops on 70 percent of Guatemalan plantations in 2012 and 40 percent in 2013.

The plant, dubbed Anacafe-14, was presented Friday at the 25th National Coffee Congress, the organization said in a communique.

The new variety was created naturally in 1984 by a cross between Pacamara and Catimor plants near the village of El Tesoro, 206 kilometers (128 miles) from Guatemala City in Chiquimula province on the Honduran border.

The result of the natural hybridization produced "a sturdy plant" with "larger fruit," Anacafe said.

The owner of a plot of land in Francisco Manchame village identified the coffee plant and began the process of selecting the best fruit to use as the seed, and in that way produced a new generation "with exceptional characteristics," the organization said.

Following the fortuitous discovery and production of the plant, Anacafe said it detected the plot of land and began to supervise the crop "to technically confirm the characteristics" of the coffee plant, aware of its genetic potential.

The organization found, after six years of researching the soil, the climate and other factors, "valuable characteristics" in the variety, such as "resistance to roya and the drought," along with "excellent vegetative vigor" and "high productivity."

Roya, a rust fungus that spreads through coffee plantations, sometimes carried by the wind, first appeared in Guatemala in 1980, but a resurgence of the disease affected 70 percent of plantations in 2012 and 40 percent in 2013.

Guatemala is the seventh largest coffee exporter in the world and the commodity provides jobs for 1,100,000 Guatemalans, or 18 percent of the active working population, according to official figures.