This research has identified the extent to which soil acidity is linked to over fertilisation, poor farming practices, and poor yields from coffee plants in Tarrazú. However, no relationship has been found between fertiliser input and coffee production across the 40 farms, which is surprising given the cost and historical assumptions about the link between fertiliser input and production. We have learned that many farmers can reduce the amount of synthetic fertilizers they use without negatively impacting their yields. This is good news for farmers who can reduce production costs while they also reduce surface water pollution in streams from agrochemical runoff during rainstorm events.
Based on preliminary results for arthropod (beetles, wasps, flies) studies, the project is currently exploring whether pollinators, such as native and European honey bees, are important for increasing coffee yields.
The project has initiated an educational programme with farmers on their fields, looking into the effects of slope, erosion and herbicide management choices on ground vegetation. Following efforts to work with them on these issues, farmers have shown a shift away from broad scale application of herbicide on all ground cover, to more targeted application and increased use of mechanical management of ground cover.
This project has also developed a Geographic Information System (GIS) dataset for the Los Santos region in Costa Rica, using the latest aerial and satellite imagery. The data include environmental features (land cover, slope, rivers, etc.), as well as roads and land use classifications (urban, farm, forest).
The outcomes from the project are delivering benefits at both the local and international level. Farmers have increased opportunities to participate in scientific research and workshops to understand the relationship between coffee production and farming practices.
Chandler, M.W., Tanzi, S.C., Banks, J.E. & Ureña, N. (2009) Trade-offs and win-win opportunities among farm practices, coffee production and environmental sustainability in the Los Santos region, Costa Rica. Ecological Society of America 94th Annual
Meeting, Aug 2-7, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Chandler, M.W., Ureña, N., Tanzi, S.C., Fortescue, A., Banks, J.E., Goodman, J. & Janovicz, A. (2009) Farmer and volunteer participatory research on sustainable coffee farming in Los Santos region of Costa Rica. Ecological Society of America 94th Annual Meeting, Aug 2-7, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA