Assessing the performance of international coffee cultivars in Australia

Southern Cross University

  • Project code: PRJ-012720

  • Project stage: Current

  • Project start date: Saturday, May 30, 2020

  • Project completion date: Friday, May 30, 2025

  • National Priority: EI2 - New and Emerging Industries - M2


The Australian Coffee grower industry generates a unique product from a small footprint. Established over the past 30 years it has successfully created a distinct niche, delivering high quality product to small domestic, tourist and specialist export markets. However, over 99% of the coffee consumed in Australia is roasted from imported beans, and major Australian cities now boast one of the most sophisticated coffee cultures worldwide. This presents significant market opportunities for Australian grown beans. Increasing the size of the industry is dependent upon attracting new investors who see the value of Australian-origin coffee as a -niche product, both nationally and globally. This requires access to new cultivars that a) decrease the cost of production given high labour costs; b) improve productivity through less pruning; c) are not susceptible to the major diseases of coffee that are found in the major coffee producing regions; and d) sustain or increase quality and the unique attributes of Australian-grown coffee. The variety on which the local industry is currently based is the K7 variety of Coffea arabica. This variety has proved too vigorous in our subtropical climate and requires repeated pruning which results in loss of production. A new semi-dwarf variety that requires less pruning but that has the same or better quality in the cup is urgently needed.
In this project, a collection of new cultivars recently established in a World Coffee Research (WCR) trial in NSW, providing a unique opportunity for Australian coffee growers, will be assessed to identify potential replacements for the existing K7 (NSW) and Queensland varieties. Commercial use of the collection will be subject to negotiations with the germplasm owners and also where relevant in accordance to the terms of the WCR Research Agreement with SCU.


New and Emerging Industries 2

Research Organisation

Southern Cross University

Objective Summary

  1. Establish a targeted communications strategy to involve key players (Australian Subtropical Coffee Association (ASTCA), Q-DAF and growers ) from the two Australian coffee growing regions (North East NSW/Southern Queensland and Tropical Far North Queensland) and city-based specialist coffee markets as partners directly involved in the investment, selection and marketing decisions associated with new plantings in the Australian sub-tropics and tropics, with aim to build confidence in the Australian coffee industry.
  2. Grow and identify replacements for the commercial cultivars in NSW and QLD for 25 WCR-sourced international varieties of promising performance and quality to maturity in fully replicated field trials. In depth field trials to assess for agro-morphology, phenology, yield and bean quality over a period of 5 years in two distinct coffee growing locations of Australia, lowland Northern NSW and highland northern QLD.
  3. Use the resulting information from 2. to help in the decision making process for the selection of best suited cultivars for lowland Northern NSW/southern QLD and highland northern QLD in order to replace the existing cultivars. Initiate a pathway to commercialisation for priority cultivars by establishing contacts with owners and facilitating negotiations around licencing schemes for the Australian industry.