Coffea arabica, Coffea robusta
Family : Rubiaceae

Coffee trees are pruned short to conserve their energy and aid in harvesting, but can grow to more than 30 feet (9 meters) high. Each tree is covered with green, waxy leaves growing opposite each other in pairs. Coffee cherries grow along the branches. Because it grows in a continuous cycle, it’s not unusual to see flowers, green fruit and ripe fruit simultaneously on a single tree. It takes nearly a year for a cherry to mature after first flowering, and about 5 years of growth to reach full fruit production. While coffee plants can live up to 100 years, they are generally the most productive between the ages of 7 and 20. Proper care can maintain and even increase their output over the years, depending on the variety. The average coffee tree produces 10 pounds of coffee cherry per year, or 2 pounds of green beans. All commercially grown coffee is from a region of the world called the Coffee Belt. The trees grow best in rich soil, with mild temperatures, frequent rain and shaded sun


In year 1503 Arabians have introduced coffee to Sri Lanka. In old days Sri Lanka has exported nearly 50 000 tons of coffee per year. But due to a severe disease called coffee rust occurred 1870 coffee cultivation was destroyed. Coffee cultivations were replaced by rubber and tea lately. Therefore nearly 600 tons of coffee per year have been imported. After introducing rust tolerant Arabica varieties and hybrid coffee cultivations become popular again.

Major growing areas

Arabica type coffee prefers wet and intermediate zones which have an elevation above 800m. mostly grown areas are Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Matale and Badulla. Robusta type coffee prefers elevation lower than 800m. robusta is mainly grown in Kegalle, Kurunegala, Kandy and Matale. Total extent of coffee cultivation is about 60580 ha.


Coffee belongs to family Rubiaceae. It has about 60 varieties. Among them Arabica and Robusta are economically important. Liberica coffee is not commercially grown in Sri Lanka.

  • Arabica coffee (Coffea Arabica)

Arabica coffee has Ethiopian origin. Cool climates with higher (more than 800m) elevations are suitable for cultivation. Easy to manage as trees are smaller. 1kg of processed coffee can be produced with 5 kg of raw coffee. Arabica is self-pollinated. Therefore seed properagation can be done. Due to the high quality flavor and aroma Arabica coffee has a higher price in market. HTD, S09, Catimur, Lakparakum, Lak Saviru and Lak Komali are high yielding coffee varieties. While some are resistant to coffee rust.

  • Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora)

Has an African origin. Can be cultivated upto 800m elevation in wet and intermediate zones. 1kg of processed coffee can be produced with 4.5 to 5 kg of row coffee. Newly released varieties are IMY, S274, GCR, CCI, Lanka Chandra, Lanka Bimsara and Lanka Isuru.

  • Liberica coffee

Has large trees. Not grown in commercial level. Coffee has a bitter taste. How ever there is a demand in Malaysia and Middle East countries.

Soil and climatic needs

Soil :

Its better to have soil pH evels in between 5 to 6.5. If the soil is highly acidic Dolamite application is recommended. Well drained Latasolic soil is suitable for Arabica coffee. Robusta coffee can be grown in large variation of soils.

above 800m elevation is suitable for Arabica while up to 800m of elevation is suitable for Robusta. Catimur is a hybrid which can be grown both in higher and lower elevations.

Temperature and Rain fall:

Mean annual Rain fall1500-2750mm1750mm and above
Mean annual Temperature18-24 C27-29 C


Frequent high wind is not suitable for coffee. If coffee is grown in areas with high wind cultivation should be covered with wind barriers.

Crop Establishment

Seed propergation and vegetative propagation by cuttings can be practiced. But seed propargation is easy and profitable.
If seed propagation is practiced mature ripen berries should be taken from pest and disease free mother plants. Percarp should be removed carefully and the flesh around the seeds should be removed by rubbing with saw dust. Seeds are planted on wet sand beds with 0.5cm spacing between seeds and 2.5cm spacing between seed rows. Then seeds are covered with 5cm thick hay layer. It takes around 45 days for seed germination. When become to button stage seedlings are transferred to 12.5cm X 20cm polythene bags filled with the equal amounts of top soil, sand, coir dust and compost.

Field planting

Spacing: Arabica 1.8m X 1.8m (3000 plants/ha)

Robusta 2.5m X 2.5m single stem of double stem (1600 plants/ha)

3m X 3m Multiple stem (1150 plants/ ha)

Planting pits should be 45X45X45cm in fertile soil. While it should be 60X60X60 cm in low fertile soil. Before field planting pit should be filled with 25 kg of cow-dung or compost mixed with 100g of Rock Phosphate.
After field planting mulching is important to protect plants from drying.

Crop managemets

Weeding is important around plants. Aground cover is also recommended with Calapagonia or Sthylosanthus.


Coffee can be grown with or with out shade. Shade level depends on elevation soil moisture rain fall pattern and coffee variety. Gliricidia, Erithrina, Albesia can be used as shade trees with spacing of 12 X12m or 14X14m. establishment of shade trees should be done 6 to 12 month in advance.
banana cultivation is a good alternative to provide temporary shade for coffee.


For Robusta coffee maintain of two stems per plant is suitable than having a single stem or multiple stem. Coffee should be maintained at a height lower than 2m.
collar pruning is recommended for all coffee cultivations since it is a sudden stress to the plant it should be done in the middle of the rainy season. Pruning is done 15to20 cm above the ground level 45 angle. Fungicide or Lacker should be applied on cutting surface.

Mixed cropping

Coffee can be cultivated as a mixed crop with pepper, clove, nutmeg, cocont and tea.

Fertilizer application


 Before yala & Maha seasonAfter Yala & Maha season
1st year63g63g
2nd year250g
3rd year350g


 Before yala & Maha seasonAfter Yala & Maha season
1st year50g50g
2nd year150g
3rd year200g

Above amount of fertilizer can be taken from “tea fertilizer” or below fertilizer mixture.

Urea (46% N)414% N
Rock Phosphate 28% P2O5)511% P2O5
MOP (60% K2O)314% K2O
Kieserite 24 % MgO12% MgO


Nematodes and snails damage to nursery plants. In addition to that damping off occurs in nursery plants. Drainage is the remedy.

  1. Coffee rust is a severe disease in old days. But now varieties resistant to rust have been introduced. 05% Bodo mixture application is recommended. Arabica coffee is highly susceptible
  2. Sooty moulds: growth of black fungi on leave reduce photosynthesis. Shedding of leaves can happen. Application of 1% Flour is recommended.
  3. Anthracnose : brown colour spots occur on berries and leaves. Gradual dying of lant can happen. 1% Bodo mixture application is recommended. Reduction of shade is also suitable.


Coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei ) : Female insects lay eggs inside the berries and emerging larvae feed inside the berry. After the harvesting and storage time this damage can be occur. To control the berry borer damage follow good management practices, maintain the 40 – 60% shade in field, Cultivate varieties showing uniform maturity ex: IMY, Catomore, use recommended spacing for planting of coffee in field, limit the main harvest to three times and remove and destroy all the left over berries from laterals at the final harvest, remove and destroy all fallen berries. Also conserve the natural enemies to reduce the berry borer population in coffee fields.

Stem borer-(Xyleborus morstatti ) : Black colour tiny beetle makes hole on secondary and other branches and make tunnel inside. After they feed the inside growing fungus. Due to this damage, wither and brake the branches of coffee trees. Therefore cut, remove, burn the damage branches and field sanitation is more important to control the damage by beetle.

Root eating beetles and scale insects are minor pests of coffee cultivation.

Post harvest practices

Selective harvesting is done in coffee. Two types of processing types are available known as wet and dry methods.

Dry Method:

Fully ripen berries are harvested. Damaged berries are removed and dried with sunlight. After drying pericarp is removed. This coffee is known as cherry coffee.

Wet method:

Ripen berries are harvested and outer layers are removed using “Pulper machine” within 10 hours of harvesting. Then the seeds are kept for fermentation by covering with a mat for 24 to 48 hours. Then washed and dried in sunlight. This coffee is known as Parchment coffee. It has better quality than cherry coffee.

Leave a Reply