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Publication | 2022

Description of an Arabica coffee ideotype for agroforestry cropping systems: A guideline for breeding more resilient new varieties

Climate change (CC) is already impacting Arabica coffee cultivation in the intertropical zone. To deal with this situation, it is no longer possible to manage this crop using industrial agriculture techniques, which has been the main strategy implemented since the Green Revolution. Developing a more sustainable agriculture system that respects people and the environment is essential to guarantee future generations' access to natural resources. In the case of Arabica coffee, the solution has been found. Agroforestry is proposed as an ecosystem-based strategy to mitigate and adapt to CC. At least 60% of Arabica coffee is produced in agroforestry systems (AFSs), which are the most sustainable way to produce coffee. Nevertheless, AFS coffee cultivation is currently uncompetitive partly because all modern varieties, selected for full-sun intensive cropping systems, have low yields in shaded environments. Here we review the reasons why agroforestry is part of the solution to CC, and why no breeding work has been undertaken for this cropping system. Based on the literature data, for breeding purposes we also define for the first time one possible coffee ideotype required for AFS coffee cultivation. The four main traits are: (1) productivity based on F1 hybrid vigor, tree volume and flowering intensity under shade; (2) beverage quality by using wild Ethiopian accessions as female progenitors and selecting for this criterion using specific biochemical and molecular predictors; (3) plant health to ensure good tolerance to stress, especially biotic; and (4) low fertilization to promote sustainable production. For each of these traits, numerous criteria with threshold values to be achieved per trait were identified. Through this research, an ecosystem-based breeding strategy was defined to help create new F1 hybrid varieties within the next 10 years.