Get ready for the coffee harvest!

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Preparação de café

Coffee is an important product to the Brazilian economy since its arrival at the country. Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer and exporter, and Brazilian people are one of the major consumers of the beverage. It’s not a coincidence that in the latest Conab’s survey related to the 2022 crop, the national average is 30,6 bags per hectare, a number 16,1% higher than the last crop. To achieve this result, it is important to be careful with the pre-harvest processes.

One of the most valuable steps in coffee farming is the harvest. Therefore, good planning and the necessary pre-harvest procedures are, together, the best option to conquer a profitable crop, since the implementation of appropriate strategies and tools make the activity more competitive and sustainable.

How to get ready for the harvest?

Coffee growers must bear in mind that the harvest is a crucial moment in the whole production process. In this way, it is necessary to be careful in previous preparation. The pre-harvest procedures executed as planned become the solution to achieve great results.

On the following list, you’ll get to know the factors that must be included on the planning:

  • crop forecast;
  • gathering material and financial resources;
  • sizing and reviewing infrastructure and machinery for harvest and post-harvest 
  • evaluation of manpower demand;
  • field preparation to initiate harvest.

Taking these factors into consideration, and according to Emater’s Coffee Handbook, some procedures cannot be forgotten in the pre-harvest stage, such as:
Demarcation of streets or cleaning in the coffee fields.

If necessary, the cleaning must be done near or under the coffee trees, aiming to avoid excessive removal of soil, in a way to maintain the roots, using a wooden rake or squeegee and mechanical demarking tools or blowers. In some cases, herbicide applications at bush’s regrowth are necessary, after cutting it using a tractor or manual shearer.

The roads and transit carriers must also be verified before transporting the coffee; such as the area of equipment maneuvering carriers, bridges, cattle guard e road brackets (widths), trees and branches on the way of the machinery, that may hinder the process.

Demarcation of streets or cleaning in the coffee fields

If necessary, the cleaning must be done near or under the coffee trees, aiming to avoid excessive removal of soil, in a way to maintain the roots, using a wooden rake or squeegee and mechanical demarking tools or blowers. In some cases, herbicide applications at bush’s regrowth are necessary, after cutting it using a tractor or manual shearer.

The roads and transit carriers must also be verified before transporting the coffee; such as the area of equipment maneuvering carriers, bridges, cattle guard e road brackets (widths), trees and branches on the way of the machinery, that may hinder the process.

Facilities precautions

It is extremely important to inspect rigorously resting silos, washers, patios and dryers. Indeed, at this moment of coffee production, the patios must be reserved exclusively for drying, because coffee beans can be easily infected.

Since coffee can absorb strange odors, it is not recommended to use the resting silos to store other agricultural products or inputs. Besides, it must be swept, washed, sanitized and fenced with attention. If necessary, it is possible to make a periodic reform to eliminate cracks and fissures, aiming for the improvement of drying operation.

Machinery and maintenance

Tractors, trucks, harvesters, and reapers require regular reviews, so must be verified and sanitized. Moreover, worn parts, such as bearings, pulleys and drive belts must be replaced, as well as machinery oil and lubricant.

 In mechanized harvests, adjusting the machines is indispensable, because coffee plants differ from each other in terms of height, width and high, average or low pending load.

Establishing the harvest period 

Before starting the harvest, the coffee grower needs to evaluate the fruit maturation degree in each glebe or plot. The purpose of this procedure is to guide the decision-making to when is the best moment to start harvesting, as well as to establish accurately which plot must be harvested first.

This stage can affect the quality of coffee, therefore it is recommended to start the harvesting when the plot has a high percentage of coffee ripe, avoiding the moment when there are more unripe fruits.This way, the tendency is to obtain more uniform batches, resulting in a beverage with physical and sensory quality.

It is worth emphasizing that, in situations which the harvesting is not selective, the ideal moment to start the process must not only consider the percentage of unripe fruits, but also crop volume, manpower availability, drying structure and the quantity of beverage desired.

In fact, at the beginning of the harvest, the number of unripe fruits is commonly higher than the quantity of coffee ripe, as the procedure advances these proportions become reversed. As a reference in practice, it is recommended a range of 5% to 20% of unripe fruits to start harvesting.

All those procedures must be done with caution, as it is crucial to achieve the best possible product.

Pre-harvest planning is the key

Considering all the procedures that must be made before harvest, the pre-harvest planning is essential, since the coffee growers can organize their schedule, detail the preparation and the harvest moment, avoiding delays and unforeseen events focused on preserving the product quality as a factor that aggregates value and competitiveness.

To be successful in planning, all kinds of harvest must be previously defined and studied, according to the length and the condition of the planted area.
It is crucial that coffee growers follow the right steps on harvesting and post-harvest processes, after all, those are extremely important procedures to maintain the coffee beans quality.