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AAU Researchers Discover Medicine for Coffee Wilt Disease 

ADDIS ABABA – Addis Ababa University Researchers announced that they have found a drug that prevents a major fungal coffee disease called Coffee Wilt Disease (CWD).

The scientists from AAU’s Microbial Cellular and Molecular Biology Department discovered the medicine for CWD that makes coffee trees wither and, at times, beans prematurely ripen after 18 years long research.

The CWD, also known as Tacheomycosis, often has a devastating impact in coffee-growing African nations including Ethiopia where the sector supports the livelihoods of more than a quarter of the population.

Farmers use a ‘Trichoderma Fungicide’ to prevent the fungus that causes coffee trees to wilt.  But the nature of the fungi – a soilborne pathogen – often makes effectively preventing it challenging, previous research claims. 

The disease, it says, results in the coffee production at the farm level dropping by 37%, affecting the livelihood of smallholder farmers significantly. 

New Drug

The AAU scientists said, after years of research, they managed to produce the medicine to prevent CWD, using another biodegradable fungus.

Speaking to a state-run Ethiopian news agency, the lead researcher Dr. Tesfaye Alemu said the “new drug will have a great deal of benefits” to Africa’s top coffee-growing country. 

It’s an environmentally friendly solution that will replace the Trichoderma fungicide that Ethiopia imports to prevent fungal pathogens that affects coffee and other plants, according to Dr. Tesfaye.

In addition to saving the foreign currency spent to import the Fungicide, he said it will increase the quantity and quality of coffee production in Ethiopia.

It is also highly effective at preventing other plant diseases including those afflicting flowers, the researcher added.

The new medicine is expected to be distributed shortly after a series of consultations with coffee growers on its application.

The discovery could be welcoming new for authorities in the coffee sector who recently unveiled a new strategy that aims to boost Ethiopia’s annual coffee trade revenue by effectively utilizing its coffee potential.

The country secured a record high $1.4 billion annual revenue from coffee export after shipping nearly 300,000 metric tons of the commodity to the international market in the fiscal year that ended on July 7, 2022, according to the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority.