The Ultimate Coffee Glossary


What is Defoliation?

Defoliation in coffee cultivation and processing refers to the practice of removing some or all of the leaves from a coffee tree. This process is usually done to improve air flow and sunlight exposure in the canopy, allowing the coffee cherries to ripen more evenly and fully. Defoliation can be done manually or mechanically, depending on the size of the coffee farm and the resources available.
In manual defoliation, skilled workers carefully remove the leaves by hand, usually leaving some leaves on the tree to provide shade and prevent sunburn on the coffee cherries. In mechanical defoliation, a machine is used to strip the leaves from the tree, which can be faster and more efficient than manual defoliation, but may also remove more leaves than necessary, leading to sunburn on the coffee cherries.
Defoliation is usually done in the early stages of coffee cherry development, when the cherries are still small and green. This allows the remaining leaves to adapt to the changing conditions and grow back, providing the necessary shade and nutrients to the coffee tree. However, excessive or improper defoliation can lead to stress on the tree, reduced yield, and increased susceptibility to pests and diseases.
Overall, defoliation can be an effective tool for improving the quality and quantity of coffee harvests, but it should be done judiciously and with careful consideration of the specific needs of the coffee trees on the farm.
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