Guidelines for Growing Coffee


Coffee, a major commodity on the global market, was originated from Ethiopia. Nowadays, coffee is cultivated in Latin-America, in the sub-Saharan Africa and in the Far East – from India to Indonesia. Suited best for highlands, the Arabica variety exceed the Robusta variety in both taste and price and thus occupying 75% of the coffee plantations area around the world.


Assuming that the area is appropriate for coffee growing, some additional consideration should be made in order to determine the planting density. Among those considerations, we’ll find the soil characteristics, where deep well drained soils are preferable.

In commercial areas, planting densities vary from 3,000 to 5,000 trees per ha.

During the first year, no yield should be allowed of the tree. The tree will direct all of its resources to develop a widely branched root system. On the second year, a low yield is permissible, not more than a 1.5Kg of fresh cherries per tree.

Production starts from the third year onwards.

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Generally, in agriculture, nutrients are being lost by harvesting, erosion and leaching. Fertilizer costs and labor are the largest investment of the coffee farm.

In order to achieve the maximum yield, the right use of fertilizers is required.

Common practices such as applying manure to poor soils, composting the newly planted trees and fertilizing a mature plantation with its harvested coffee pulps, give a good head start for the coffee plantation.

Table 1. Macro elements content in manure, compost and coffee pulps.

Fertilizer N (Kg per 100Kg fertilizer) P (Kg per 100Kg fertilizer) K (Kg per 100Kg fertilizer)
Compost (estimate) 0.5 0.03 0.33
Coffee pulp (turned) 0.23 0.008 0.21
Coffee pulp (untreated) 0.17 0.011 0.13
Manure (mixed) 0.45 0.24 0.51

Even so, the compost element content is ever too low to completely replace the need of fertilizers. For example, looking at Nitrogen, a requirement of 150Kg/h would need an application of 150/0.005 = 30,000Kg of compost.

An average hectare yields approximately 19,000 fresh cherries each season. Some farmers use this data to calculate the plantation needs, as derived from the yield removal.

Demonstrated in the table below.

Kg K2O / 100 Kg cherry Calculation Fertilizer needed (Example)


(19,000/100) * 0.75 = 142.5 kg

Using 58% weight K2O

142.5/0.58 = 246 kg

Table 2. Minimum fertilizer application based on yield level. Excluding sustenance fertilization!

The needs of each coffee plot changes, along the tree development, and the different phenology stages. For example, nutrient require is at its peak during the filling stages of the cherry and during the pinhead stage.

Coffee yield fluctuate dramatically, when management activities such as pruning and weeding are conducted correctly, the fertilization will be an utmost important factor in achieving the maximum potential yield.

Creating the proper fertilization program, both rates and timing wise, must be based on a reliable yield estimation, and on a laboratory soil & water & tissue analysis.

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