Guatemala City, Aug 12 (IANS/EFE) On a plantation called Majadas del Tesoro, some 238 km east of Guatemala City, a group of coffee growers has given new hope to the sector in this country with the discovery of a strain of the coffee plant resistant to roya, a highly destructive fungus.
The plantation or Anacafe, grows coffee plants resistant to roya, a rust fungus that has damaged crops in at least 14 of the country's 22 provinces and in 2013 caused almost $250 million in losses on the isthmus, Efe reported.
Getting to where the new strain of coffee is grown is not easy - after almost five hours on the road, a rocky area must be crossed in an off-road vehicle before finally arriving at Majadas del Tesoro, located in the municipality of Camotan in Chiquimula province on the border with Honduras.
The field where the new variety is being grown has an area of almost 7,000 sq. metres and is expected to yield a harvest from around 5,000 coffee plants immune to the disease, though it could take up to three years for the plants to develop fully.
Roya, a rust fungus that is spread through coffee plantations on the wind, on clothing or by insects, first appeared in Guatemala in 1980, but a resurgence of the disease affected 70 percent of plantations in 2012 and 40 percent in 2013.
The new variety immune to the disease was identified and further developed by the owner of several plots land on the plantation, Francisco Manchame, following the natural hybridisation of the plants in 1984.