• QA 106
    Why do some growers 'stump' their coffee trees?
    I was surprised to be told that this year I could not have any of my favourite coffee because 'the producer had stumped his coffee'. The wholesaler could not tell me what, in fact, this means - can you?
    Asked by:
    Boutique roaster - European Union

    Stumping is a particularly severe form of pruning: the entire tree, canopy and all, is cut down to a level of about 50 cm above the ground. One, perhaps two branches or stems may be left to act as 'breathers' to stimulate re-growth. 

    In actual fact your question is beyond the scope of this website in that it deals with a production issue. Nevertheless, without going into detail, we can offer a brief overview that may assist you.

    Some of the reasons for 'stumping' are

    •  Improve yield: Aged trees often contain much old wood within dense canopies. As a result growth of young green branches is held back, yet these are the branches that should carry the most crop.
    • Improve quality: Old wood and dense canopies retard cherry development and encourage disease: dense canopies are more difficult to treat against pests and diseases. Young wood normally produces better quality coffee.
    • Reduce costs: Aged trees are, usually, taller and require more pruning to keep them manageable. Picking tall and dense canopies is more difficult, slower and thus more costly. Stumping is cheaper than replanting.

    Depending on circumstances, a stumped tree will usually return to worthwhile production within about three years whereas a newly planted tree will take longer. However, it is unusual for a grower to 'stump' so many trees at one time that his production will be severely diminished. Usually, growers who practice stumping would do so on a rotational basis: that is they stump a given percentage of their tree population every year so as to maintain a cycle that avoids sharp fluctuations in production.

    Of course, as with every system, stumping has its promoters and its detractors. For example, some would argue that maintaining aged root systems simply perpetuates certain problems. Others will maintain that only total rejuvenation, i.e. rotational replanting - say 10/15% of trees every year, brings the efficiency growers need to strive for in trying market conditions…  Or, that stumping is more appropriate for traditional varieties and represents an almost unnecessary procedure for newer, fast growing varieties. They suggest that such varieties reach maturity faster but also have a shorter economic lifespan, making replanting the more beneficial option. It is not for us to comment however…

    Posted 19 July 2006


    Related chapter(s):
    Related Q & A:
    QA 026 and QA 069
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