Drippers and the Cup of Joe – a Love Story

Ami Charitan182_131_1By Ami Charitan, Prennial Crops – Chief Agronomist at Netafim Agriculture Department

Once roasted, all coffee beans look pretty much the same. But did you know that there are literally dozens of varieties of coffee beans? When it comes to your daily cup of coffee however there are only 2 varieties, Arabica and Robusta. They are the two primary types of coffee cultivated for drinking.

What’s the difference between the two? The two varieties differ in price, growing conditions and taste. Arabica beans tend to have a softer, sweeter taste with tones of sugar, fruit and berries. Their acidity is also higher.

Robusta has a harsher, stronger taste with a grain-like overtone and ‘peanutty’ aftertaste. They contain twice as much caffeine as Arabica and they are generally considered to be of inferior quality compared to Arabica. Some Robusta, however some are of a higher quality and valued especially in espresso for their deep flavor and good crema.

With global coffee consumption consistently increasing, along with rising awareness in ecology, environment and sustainability in food production, growers are in a constant search for more yields whilst preserving natural resources.


Growing Arabica beans in the tropical belt at relatively higher altitude poses very specific challenges. Brazil the biggest producer of Arabica has been making great strides in moving coffee crop production into previously hostile sub- tropical environments. With the help of drip irrigation systems, water and nutrients can be applied to the plants, leading to increased efficiency and yield. The results have been dramatic. Rain-fed crops produce 1.5 tons per hectare on average whilst crops grown using drip irrigation have been averaging 3 tons per hectare. Arabica crops grown in Tanzania have shown even more spectacular results with yields increasing from 400 kilograms per hectare to 2.5 tons per hectare.

Robusta coffee bean crops, which are grown extensively in Vietnam and other wetter tropic regions, pose a different set of challenges. Weather conditions and rainfall are completely different and the topography is challenging.  Despite the adverse conditions, Drip Nutrigation have succeeded in increasing Robusta yield in India from 1200 kilograms per hectare for rain-fed crops to 3 tons per hectare and from 2.4 tons per hectare to 5.5 tons per hectare in Brazil.

These impressive differences come from the fact that we were able to supply water and nutrients to the plants during the dry months and efficiently apply fertilizers during the wet months.


Cacao a typical wet tropics crop is our latest crop to penetrate into, and the results are also very surprising here. In Bahia Brazil by adopting of a completely open field farming strategy & drip Nutrigation, Cocoa beans production increases from 400 – 500 kg per hectare rain-fed, we have reached 3 tons per hectare.
Of course, there is a need for significant investment in infrastructure and in-field drip systems, but return on investment can be justified by constantly rising prices reaching consistently high levels.

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8 Responses to Drippers and the Cup of Joe – a Love Story

  1. JGR says:

    Dear Ami,

    Thank you for this post. I have one quick question – The tonnage you mention is it parchment or cherry?

    For example when you say, with netafim the productivity is 3 tonnes / ha for robusta in India this 3 tonne is is cherry coffee correct?

    Thank you,

    • netafim says:

      Dear Jai,
      All the yield figures of Robusta in India & Brazil are the Green Beans per hectare- NOT cherry.
      Best regards

  2. Muthanna Mapangada says:

    Dear Ami,
    I am a planter from Coorg. I attended seminar in bamboo Club where you spoke. I have implemented drip irrigation on my 40 year old robusta and 8 year old robusta. However I am unable to acheive an uniform blossom. This is my second year and I had the same problems last year too. I am using 4lph drippers spaced at 1m. Do you think this is the wrong combination? Kindly advise
    I would be grateful if I could talk to you. My telephone number is +91 9448954384.

    • netafim says:

      Dear Sir,
      Thanks for contacting us.
      To get a full blooming, the Coffee tree needs to be stressed (Hydric stress) for a period of 30-45 days and then the stress should be broken by two water applications of 20-30mm= 80m^3-120m^3 per acre, a 7-10 days between the 1st & the 2nd application.
      Please contact Naresh, our local representative for further information. ( I don’t think that the dripper’s flow & the spacing is the problem).
      Best regards

  3. Sergio Monroy Tello says:

    Dear Sir. Would like to receive more information on cacao drip irrigation due we are growing at hight density (5,000 tres/Ha).

    Cacao nutrition roots are 80% (lateral roots) and 20% Deep roots (1.5 mts Deep),¿what kind of system do you recomend us? How many lts/tree?

    Looking forward to hearinf from you soon

    • netafim says:

      Dear Sergio,
      You did not disclosed the country & climate your of Cocoa plantation.
      Nevertheless- in mature Cocoa plantation our strategy is to maintain high soil moisture throughout the year avoiding any hydric stress at the soil most active root at 0-50cm .
      To this soil layer frequent supply of water & nutrients ( Nutrigation) will be applied by a Drip system.
      If as an example in the dry season the ETO-( potential evapo-traspiration) is 2.5mm/day = 25m^3/ha, day, each of your 5000plants/ha will require 5 liter/day.
      Usually the frequency of Irrigation will be twice or 3 times a week , which means 17.5l/tree or ~12l/tree per irrigation cycle.
      Soluble Nutrients will be applied with every irrigation cycle or at least once a week.
      During the wet season, Nutrigation will be applied once a week with the minimal water volume required to uniformly distribute the nutrients via the drip system
      Best regards

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