Irrigation Management in Coffee Gardens


Principles of irrigation The coffee tracts in south India usually experience drought period of 34 months from December onwards. Sometimes, north-east monsoon tapers off by the end of October itself leading to extension of dry period. The prolonged drought limits coffee production even in well-managed estates. It also affects successful establishment of young coffee. Arabica coffee can withstand dry conditions than Robusta which is highly susceptible to drought.

Insufficient and delayed blossom and backing showers adversely affect the yields of both Arabica and Robusta. If blossom rains are delayed beyond March in case of Robusta and beyond April incase of Arabica, then the production receives a setback. In such situations, irrigation is recommended especially for Robusta coffee as it responds well to irrigation.

Sprinkler irrigation is most popular because of its suitability to any terrain and the amount and rate of water application can be carefully monitored and controlled. The recommended schedule of irrigation for coffee, is: For successful establishment of young coffee: 2.5cm of water at 15 days interval during dry months.

Irrigation for blossom and backing For inducing normal blossom in Robusta, 2.53.25cm of water during second fortnight of February to second week of March followed by 2.5 cm backing, 1520 days after flowering. Irrigation of Arabica coffee is generally not recommended/ practiced as it can withstand drought to a greater extent.
Irrigation of mature coffee during dry months It can be practiced wherever water is available in plenty. The first irrigation should be given with 2.53.25cm of water immediately after 1520 days of cessation of rains. The next irrigation should be given at 1520 days interval up to December.
Drought management in coffee Plants affected by drought limit vegetative growth, show floral abnormalities and poor fruit set resulting in reduced yield. Therefore, drought tolerance is an important aspect of coffee productivity. Arabica coffee is more tolerant to drought than robusta. For inducing tolerance in robusta the following nutrient solution can be sprayed @ 1 litre per plant.

Nutrient in 200 litres of water
Urea                            1 kg
Super phosphate          1 kg
Muriate of potash        750 g
Zinc sulphate               1 kg

Spraying schedule

1st spray: 45 days after the last rainfall (usually the 2nd fortnight of January)
2nd spray: 30-45 days after the first spray

Foliar application of anti-transpirants like Ralli Dhan 110 @ 200 ml in 200 litres of water (0.1%) is also useful for drought management in coffee.