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Sick coffee bean trees.....

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  • Sick coffee bean trees.....

    Hoping for some help from someone in the know about coffee trees....
    I have two trees, one about 3 years old the other 2. The oldest one was a picture of health last year, bearing a huge amount of beans. It literally flowered immediately after harvesting. Its got a heap of fruit on it as you can see, but the last month or so, the tips of many branches have died. They go a browny colour and it spreads up the branch, the berries dying as it goes. The leaves must have dropped too.
    I've just re-mulched the base heavily (sugarcane mulch), and given it a good shot of dynamic lifter for fruiting trees. The tree was getting quite tall and sparse, so I've also pruned about 1/2m or so from the height hoping to bush it back up a bit.
    The only other aspect is one side of the tree gets hammered by caffeine addicted bulls on a farm, who make sure nothing grows over the fence..... (hmmm arabica bean fed beef scotch fillet......?)
    I'm in Port Macquarie NSW, sub tropical climate, winter hasn't been all that cold (no frosts), certainly not unusual anyway, and we haven't been overly windy (that'll happen in spring). My younger tree is a picture of health...nice deep green leaves.
    I've heard of a fungus that the trees can pick idea what it is or looks like though. Other than that, if anyone has an idea of what to try to reverse this problem I'd be grateful.
    I've attached some pics (hopefully....1st go at this), so have check them out. Was keen to have enough beans this year to throw in new behmor....last years lot went thru a popper, and I had no idea what I was doing.
    Thanks for your help!
    Attached Files

  • #2
    It's always hard to diagnose a plant issue from photo's.

    Possibly, your tree is infected with a 'coffea' specific disease but this is unlikely, given relative isolation and the lack of multiple plants.

    The symptoms, from a look at what you have posted, could be anything from a nutrient deficiency,
    a toxicity in the soil, a general fungus disease, or water logging.

    Coffee trees like a lot of water but if your soil has poor drainage then the roots will suffer.
    Normally, symptoms which first show up in the growing tip relate to an issue with the roots/soil.

    Some nutrient deficiencies show up first below the shoot tip, in newly expanded leaves while other deficiencies manifest in older leaves as the
    plant 'steals' nutrients to maintain new leaf production.

    Fungal or mildew problems will show up first on soft new leaves, near the growing tip but not at the very tip and generally don't trouble older leaves.

    You may have a nutrient deficiency.
    Do the cattle urinate on the root zone? Urea toxicity may be the problem.

    Here is a link to a diagnostic chart:

    The other thing you can do is put some leaves in a SEALED, clear, plastic bag and take them to
    an agricultural chemical reseller who generally have agronomists or horticulturalists in their employ
    and who have access to agricultural extension services.

    You could also try getting in touch with a coffee grower in Byron Bay/ North Queensland but you will need more detailed, close-up photos.


    • #3
      The only other aspect is one side of the tree gets hammered by caffeine addicted bulls on a farm, who make sure nothing grows over the fence..... (hmmm arabica bean fed beef scotch fillet......?)

      Kopicow? Could be onto a goldmine there!

      Had a frost? I know from my scrawny little plants that they REALLY don't like a frost, typically one full frost will kill 'em, a half sheltered frost and they look similar to your plants.

      Might also explain why your plants still look good lower down where they are sheltered more?!?!


      • #4
        Thanks chokkidog for the advice. I'll see if it perks up a bit after the fertiliser and mulch. We did get a heap of rain/ flooding back in march which maybe is still affecting the root area.....?
        apart from having a few home grown beans to play with, they're a great looking shrub when healthy.
        Trying to work out a marketing campaign for kopicow....


        • #5
          Here is a link I used to diagnose a Nitrogen deficiency in my young plants
          Young Orchard
          it may be of some help ,it has a few photos.


          • #6
            You can check the health of the roots by digging up a small section. You should do this during a flush of new growth.
            Don't dig close to the trunk but just inside the dripline of the tree ( the area under the tree, corresponding to the extremities of the foliage on the tree).

            Healthy roots will be almost white when cut through and there should also be fine white root hairs at the root growing points, indicating a healthy, functioning rootsystem.
            Waterlogged roots will have been damaged and will be brown when cut through and there won't be fine white root hairs. Or at least, not as many as a healthy plant.
            You could compare the roots between your two trees, if one is healthy and shows no symptoms.

            Which reminds me, normally, fungal diseases are readily transmitted between similar or susceptible plants by various vectors; insects, wind, rain splash, secateurs or machinery/tools, even yourself. If the other plant remains healthy, disease can't be ruled out but is less likely.
            Coffee trees prefer an acid soil, have you added lime at any time? This would make the soil more alkaline and would upset the root's ability to function. Salt toxicity is also a

            Do the cattle trample the ground under the tree? Making hoof size puddles from which rainwater doesn't drain but stagnates?

            Over what time period has the condition spread from the tip, down the branches? ( You said 'up' but the condition goes from the tip, along the branch, towards the roots?
            That would be down.

            Posting close up photos of whole leaves may help with remote diagnosis.

            On the other hand, it could be something completely different to anything I've mentioned :-)


            • #7
              P.S. a useful link above from nanga1972. Has it helped?

              Below is a link to a tissue analysis lab.
              SESL (Thornleigh,NSW)

              Elders or Landmark or similar will also provide details of other labs and may organise it for you.


              • #8
                Awesome job folks. Thank you both for going to the effort finding those articles. Just had a big shoulder op on fri, so there'll be no digging for a month or 2..... All my effort is going into making my 2 ritual coffees in the morning 1 handed!
                Looking at the texts, I'm thinking I've got a definitely deficiency of sorts, and stands to reason it's just run out of puff after 2 seasons of heavy bearing. There's a dwarf avocado tree and a lemon myrtle next to it, so there's some competition going on for nutrients.


                • #9
                  My research shows that coffee plants require a slightly acid soil with pH of 5 ½ -6 ½. 7 is neutral. Good results are often obtained in a more acidic soil. You can get a pH test kit from a garden shop.

                  Having had a heavy crop, the plant and soil will have been depleted of nutrients. Dynamic Lifter will replace some of them. It is high in nitrogen but low in phosphorus and is somewhat alkaline.

                  Generally with plants, nitrogen encourages leaf growth while phosphorous encourages flowering and cropping. Australian soils are usually short of both nitrogen and phosphorous.

                  A heavy load of mulch, such as sugar cane, will tend to use up nitrogen from the topsoil, while it decays.
                  My background is in agriculture. I have done gardening and vegie growing. While I like to use some organic fertiliser and mulch, I also use some chemical fertiliser to overcome deficiencies.

                  I would recommend that you apply a little mixed chemical fertiliser such as that used on fruit trees. This will slightly increase the soil acidity.



                  • #10
                    Barry is right about the mulch, there is a slight dip in nitrogen availability, as the mulch is decomposing.
                    It can be offset by the application of a quick release Nitrogen fertiliser.
                    The NPK (Nitrogen Phosphorous Potassium) of Dynamic lifter for fruit and citrus is 10-2-8. A bit low in P for flowering trees.
                    Blood and Bone is one of the best organic fertilisers but is generally pH neutral. It's NPK is 8-5-0.5, you could add rock phosphate or bone meal
                    for added P, if required. See link below.
                    Coffeegrounds are high in nitrogen and a soil acidifier. Pine needle mulch will also be acidic.
                    Organic potassium is harder to source, except for wood ash, which is the most common but is mainly mineral salts and therefore quite alkaline.

                    The link below should be of interest to you.


                    And don't forget your trace elements but don't overdo it!

                    The following is a fertiliser developed for fruiting trees by Landmark.




                    • #11
                      I am a newcomer with no experience with the coffee bean tree. My tree is 3 years old and has grown about a foot but no flowers ever! It is an indoor plant do I need to do something?
                      I would appreciate any help you could offer,


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Emalloy64 View Post
                        My tree is 3 years old and has grown about a foot but no flowers ever! It is an indoor plant do I need to do something?
                        I would suggest planting outside and ensuring it gets its fair share of sunlight. From what I understand, when they are younger being shaded is good, (normally by larger trees), but once they can start producing they do need some sunlight. They also have quite a shallow root system, so are possibly hampered by being in a pot. I have a number of Coffee trees in my garden, and noticed they only really started to flourish once they were transplanted from pot into the garden. I have 2 that are 2-3 years old, and they bloomed and both have green cherries this year.

                        I'm no expert, so these comments are just based on my observations.



                        • #13
                          Matured chicken poo is high in nitrogen isn't it ?
                          Would it be OK to use that as well ?


                          • #14
                            Emalloy64 wrote :I am a newcomer with no experience with the coffee bean tree. My tree is 3 years old and has grown about a foot but no flowers ever!

                            I'm no better than Graham, but I'm also thinking that depending on the circumstances, the variety and everything else really. Some trees may take closer to 4 or even 5 years before they start fruiting. So maybe (?) it's just more patience that's needed. ( And sun of course , but not too much all of a sudden, they might get sunburn, no joke )


                            • #15
                              Check out this paper from the Hawaii university


                              May be phosphorus deficient,

                              How much fertilizer has the tree had In the last 3 months?

                              My gut is telling me this may be a toxicity not a deficiency