Zero Harvest (Safra Zero)
Safra zero, or zero harvest, is a harvesting system that is becoming prominent in Brazil. In the zero harvest system a producer prunes the branches of a coffee tree completely back to the trunk. After a year of regeneration with no yield, the tree will then produce larger amounts of coffee the following year. The process can then be repeated.
Why zero harvest?
- As branches grow in length, the tree uses more energy and nutrients to maintain its infrastructure, leaving fewer resources for fruit production.
- Below a certain rate of production (which varies with a farm’s cost structure) the cost to harvest coffee is more than the market value of the harvested coffee. Coffee plants in Brazil generally follow a biennial production cycle, with a year of higher yields followed by a year of lower yields. In years of low production, the cost of production is often higher than the price received for the harvested coffee, especially in regions where coffee cannot be mechanically harvested.
- In “Zero Harvest” years, growers also save on input costs (fertilizers and pesticides), since only nitrogen fertilization is recommended.
- Coffee fruit cannot simply be left on the trees as this will greatly compromise subsequent harvests because the unharvested fruit significantly reduce crop quality and are a source of insect infestation.
Timeline for Zero Harvest
Year 0: After the harvest, branches are pruned back close to the trunk
Year 1: Zero production
Year 2: High production => Prune after harvest
Year 3: Zero production
Year 4: High production => Prune after harvest
The goal of zero harvest is to maintain the same production numbers through harvesting every-other-year. For example, pre-zero harvest the production could be: year 1 = 30 bags/hectare; year 2 = 20bags/hectare. With zero harvest, the intent would be: year 3 = 0 bags/hectare; year 4 = 50 bags/hectare, etc.
The process can be repeated for as long as the grower chooses. Growers can, at any time, return to a normal production cycle by not pruning the branches back after the harvest.