Water and Soil

The coffee plantations productivity depends on these two critical components, water and soil which vary from one growing region to another. Overall improved soil water conservation can lead to greater fertilizer efficiency use. Soil affects both production levels and coffee flavor quality.

Agriculturally productive coffee trees demand lots of nutrients and minerals from the soil. Each must be replenished in the proper measure. Soil’s compositions are endless variations such as volcanic, clay, and sandy contribute to a coffee’s flavor profile. One part of a farms soil may have different imbalances or pH than another.

The coffee plants livelihood depends on providing adequate soil moisture during the dry months.   Soil profile plays an important part in the retention of surface water, subsurface water and ground water. Depending upon the physical forces at play and the mode of retention, soil water may be divided into three categories:

Hygroscopic Water—is bound to the soil clay particles and is incapable of any movement. It is held tenaciously by soil particles that plants cannot make use of this type of water. The force with which it is held on the clay particle is far greater the osmotic pressure of the root sap of most plants. This results in the inability of plant roots to draw this water from the soil rendering it useless.

Capillary Water—adheres to the surface of the soil particles as liquid water in the form of a thin film. As moisture conditions increase the capillary water form rings around the soil particles and can be available to the coffee plants.

Gravitational Water—due to heavy rains the amount of water in the soil increases beyond its maximum capillary capacity, and this additional water appears as free water in the soil pore spaces. This water is beyond the force exerted by soil particles and comes under the influence of gravity and percolates through cracks formed in the soil down into the lower layers and drains away.

Planters can conserve precious soil water with these simple steps.

  1. Robusta plants are self-shading and Arabica plants are spaced close to each other and this canopy literally covers the entire surface soil, thereby avoiding direct sunlight from reaching the ground.
  2. Covering the entire plantation with a thick layer of mulch and organic matter inhibits the loss of moisture from within the soil.

Soil erosion and runoff occur mostly due to torrential rainfall patterns in most coffee growing regions and are a destabilizing factor.  Coffee farms can remain sustainable, free from pests and diseases and most importantly having the satisfaction that future generations will be benefited.