Send to

Choose Destination
Phytopathology. 2015 Sep;105(9):1164-73. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO-04-15-0085-RVW. Epub 2015 Sep 3.

The Big Rust and the Red Queen: Long-Term Perspectives on Coffee Rust Research.

Author information

First author: History Department, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada; and second author: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Since 2008, there has been a cluster of outbreaks of the coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix) across the coffee-growing regions of the Americas, which have been collectively described as the Big Rust. These outbreaks have caused significant hardship to coffee producers and laborers. This essay situates the Big Rust in a broader historical context. Over the past two centuries, coffee farmers have had to deal with the "curse of the Red Queen"-the need to constantly innovate in the face of an increasing range of threats, which includes the rust. Over the 20th century, particularly after World War II, national governments and international organizations developed a network of national, regional, and international coffee research institutions. These public institutions played a vital role in helping coffee farmers manage the rust. Coffee farmers have pursued four major strategies for managing the rust: bioprospecting for resistant coffee plants, breeding resistant coffee plants, chemical control, and agroecological control. Currently, the main challenge for researchers is to develop rust control strategies that are both ecologically and economically viable for coffee farmers, in the context of a volatile, deregulated coffee industry and the emergent challenges of climate change.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center