The Coffee Buyer’s Guide to Brazil

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CBGB – Growing, Harvesting, and Processing

CBGB 5.02 Growing

From large Fazendas to family smallholdings, Brazilian farms are characterised by technified, full-sun production. This contrasts with coffee plantations in other countries in South and Central America, where at least partial shade is common. The use of shade in coffee-growing was almost completely abandoned in Brazil in the 1950s (DaMatta 2004). Trees are planted densely, 3,000–5,000 trees per hectare being typical, in widely spaced rows to allow harvesting machinery to pass between them. The wide rows also allow mowers to control weeds (Ronchi and da Silva 2018).

Coffee trees in Brazil are typically planted at high densities but with wide spaces between rows

Government support and advice from extension agencies in Brazil is largely focused on full-sun production systems, intended to maximise yields (Watson and Achinelli 2008). The effect of shade on yield depends on the prevailing climatic conditions, and shade may be of more benefit in northerly parts of Brazil (DaMatta 2004).

The use of irrigation is relatively widespread on larger farms in Brazil; about 22% of the country’s coffee is produced under irrigation. Irrigation enables coffee trees to be planted more densely and allows coffee to be grown in parts of the country that would otherwise be unsuitable because of frequent droughts (de Assis et al 2014).

Brazilian coffee is nearly always grown in full sun, on smallholdings as well as on larger plantations

Fertilisers are highly important to the Brazilian coffee industry. The soils in cerrado regions are thin, weathered, and low in nutrients, and they were widely considered unsuitable for agriculture except for rough grazing (Lopes and Guilherme 2016). Experiments beginning in the 1960s showed that with the application of irrigation, lime, and specific mineral fertilisers, coffee could be grown in the cerrado (Lazzarini et al 1975).