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Published in Issue No. 122, page 29 to 31 - (12967) characters

Collecting of Coffea abeokutae Cramer and Coffea liberica Bull. in southwestern Nigeria

S.S. Omolaja  C.R. Obatolu  J.A. Williams  Introduction
The economically important Coffea species planted by farmers in Nigeria are Coffea arabica and C. canephora (Williams 1989). However, before these two species were introduced to the Nigerian farmers in the early part of this century, C. liberica and C. abeokutae were the local cultivars (Sands 1968). Though the majority of the Coffea species are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Asia (Chevalier 1947), C. abeokutae is native to Nigeria (Wellman 1961). The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), which has the mandate for coffee research in this country, has in its germplasm collection C. arabica, C. canephora, C. excelsa and C. stenophylla. Both C. liberica and C. abeokutae are absent.

According to Allard (1960) meaningful crop improvement in the short and long terms is achieved only with germplasm of broad genetic variability. Thus, collecting of local cultivars such as C. liberica and C. abeokutae becomes desirable. A collecting mission for these two Coffea species was therefore undertaken between April 1997 and February 1998 to identify locations where C. liberica and C. abeokutae exist in Nigeria and to collect both berries and stem cuttings for raising representative plants for the Institute’s germplasm collection. The objective of the mission therefore was to increase the genetic diversity of coffee germplasm in CRIN and to preserve the two Coffea species that are already under threat of extinction in Nigeria. This paper reports on the collecting of C. abeokutae and C. liberica for the Institute and the distinguishing characteristics of the accessions collected.


Collecting sites

The exploration and collecting mission dealt essentially with the southwestern part of Nigeria. The routes of the collecting mission are indicated in Figure 1. The expedition sites were Ilaro, Imasayi and Ayetoro (Ogun State); Ikereku and Elekuru (Oyo State); Olle, Kabba, Ighun and Iyamoye (Kogi State); Issuada (Ondo State) and Uhonmora (Edo State). The collecting sites can be divided into two different groups possessing easily comparable environmental or socioeconomic attributes.

Group A: This is characterized by derived savannah western relicts forest. The sites contain savannah soils derived from sedimentary rocks (Sands 1968). The sites in this group were Ilaro, Imasayi; Ayetoro, Olle, Kabba, Issuada and Uhonmora.

Group B: This is a rain forest ecology. The forest soil is derived from metamorphic and igneous rocks (Sands 1968). The sites in this group were Ikereku-Akinyele, Elekuru-Akinyele and Iyamoye.

At the farm (collecting) site where the coffee plants of interest were found, the plant characters studied were the plant height (m), plant shape, branching habit, number of primary branches, colour of young emerging leaves, leaf length, leaf breadth, leaf number, adult leaf colour, leaf shape, leaf apex, leaf base, leaf texture, berry size, berry shape, berry colour, number of bearing nodes per branch, number of berries per node and size of berry crown. The procedure for the measurement of these characters was based on adapted IPGRI standard coffee descriptors (IPGRI 1996). The description of Wellman (1961) was used to separate C. abeokutae from C. liberica. Information provided by Sands (1968) was used to further clarify the C. liberica into Types 1, 2 and 3.

Next, the mother plant in its original site on the farm and samples of stem cuttings collected were labelled to indicate: (1) alphabet codes for C. liberica and C. abeokutae which were "H" and "(W. Williams)" respectively, (2) serial number, (3) year of collecting, and (4) state where collected. Coffee berries were also collected from the individual plant.

The stem cuttings collected (about 70 cm long) were tied and placed in a bucket filled with water. The stem cuttings were kept in this position in transit for about 24 hours until they were set in polythene pots filled with forest topsoil following the method of Omolaja and Obatolu (1998). The berries were sown in seed trays as outlined by Omolaja and Williams (1997). Forty-five days after the beans were sown and the stem cuttings were set, the number of germinated seeds and the number of successfully set cuttings were counted.

Results and discussion

Conditions in the collecting area

In Nigeria, the local cultivars of coffee (C. liberica and C. abeokutae) which were widely available in the early 1960s now have almost completely disappeared. A poor market outlet and frequent drops in coffee prices on the world market badly affected the farmers (Anonymous 1995). Many abandoned their coffee farms and diverted their efforts toward the cultivation of cocoa, palm tree and arable crops. The coffee farms were left to be overgrown with bush, and termites attacked and killed many coffee trees. The coffee-growing area of Ilaro province falls within the grassland ecology (Phillips 1975). Besides the fact that indiscriminate bush burning is prevalent in this area, its proximity to Lagos where food is in high demand has resulted in land for coffee cultivation giving way to arable crop production. Hence, signs of coffee genetic erosion observed in Ilaro were mainly a consequence of changing socioeconomic factors. Pignone et al. (1997), while collecting in southern Sardinia, similarly noticed that genetic erosion of some crops was a consequence of changing socioeconomic conditions. Coffee genetic erosion was also serious in the grassland ecology of Ayetoro and Imasayi where neither coffee farmer nor coffee shrub was noticed during the expedition.

Though Sands (1968) showed that the local cultivars of coffee were then grown in the selected 11 sites, the expedition reported here only found these cultivars in two sites. This probably indicated that these indigenous coffee cultivars are threatened with extinction. Coffea liberica and C. abeokutae were collected on the farm in the forest ecology of Ikereku-Akinyele (Oyo State) and Iyamoye (Kogi State) (Table 1). Sands (1968) reported that coffee shrubs do best in the rainforest belt. Soil and rainfall are the major environmental factors limiting coffee development outside the rainforest belt. Most of the farmers encountered at Ikereku and Elekuru attributed the loss of their coffee farms to termite attacks.

Description of collected Coffea species

The status of the plant samples at the time of collecting was landrace. The accessions of Coffea species collected are shown in Table 2. The “W” accessions had some common plant characters. The height was about 7-8 m. The plant shape was conical, usually with one, erect primary branch. The colour of young emerging leaves was brown.

Adult leaf length ranged between 18 and 23 cm while the leaf breadth was about 10 cm. The adult leaf colour was deep green. The leaf shape was lanceolate with acute apex. The leaf base was narrow and the leaf texture was shiny and leathery. The bearing nodes were very short and many per branch. The coffee berry shape was oblong. Matured berry (unripened) was green, ripened berry was red. Ten berries weighed about 16 g. The berries per node were few. The berry crown was very small. The green berries turned black after 4 days. According to Wellman (1961) coffee types with the above-mentioned characteristics could be considered to be C. abeokutae.

The general plant characters peculiar to the "H" accessions are thus indicated. The plant height was about 5-6 m, and the trees were large. The primary branches were non-erect and ranged between two and three. The colour of young emerging leaves was light green. The adult leaf length ranged between 26 and 30 cm while the leaf breadth was between 12 and 16 cm. The adult leaf was broad and green. The leaf shape was ovate with acute apex. The leaf base was wide, while the leaf texture was glossy (shiny). The bearing nodes were either close or distant.

The coffee berry shape was roundish. Matured berry (unripened) was green. Ripened berry was yellowish to reddish colour. Ten berries weighed about 16 g. The berries per node was between 4 and 13. The berry crown was prominent. The green berry retained its colour after 4 days of standing on the table. Some of these descriptions agreed with the distinct characteristics of C. liberica as outlined by Wellman (1961). Phenotypic differences were observed among the C. liberica. The descriptions of Sands (1968) was used to classify the C. liberica into Types 1, 2 and 3. Accessions H0298KG, H0798OY and H0898OY were classified under Type 1. All the general descriptions outlined under C. liberica were applicable to this Type except that the bearing nodes on the branches were distant and the berry colour was yellow with red patches. Type 2 included accession H098OY, which was distinguished by its closely arranged bearing nodes on the branches, though berry colour was also yellow with red patches. Type 3 included accessions H0198KG and H0398KG, with distant bearing nodes and yellow berry colour. The observations above agreed with an earlier report that C. liberica is polymorphic (Carvalho et al. 1969).


This expedition showed that the local cultivars such as C. liberica and C. abeokutae are threatened with extinction in Nigeria since out of the 11 selected sites, the cultivars were found in only two sites. Considering the importance of germplasm with broad genetic variability in crop improvement programmes, it is suggested that collecting efforts should continue for other Coffea species of local origin such as C. oyemensis, and more locations should be explored for collecting Coffea species threatened with extinction in Nigeria.

Planting materials were obtained from seed produced through open-pollination of flowers and rooted stem cuttings of the two Coffea species (C. abeokutae and C. liberica). These were transplanted onto germplasm plots in 1999 for ex situ conservation at the CRIN headquarters, Ibadan. However, exchange of germplasm materials is possible from these materials both as seeds and vegetatively propagated materials from either original collecting sites or from the Institute’s secondary sites. The two Coffea species will be useful for further breeding research work in future. Both C. abeokutae and C. liberica produce large coffee berries and are not attacked by coffee berry borer and coffee berry disease. These traits are good for incorporation into the breeding programme without compromising the desirable good liquor quality of an acceptable brewed coffee. The Institute also needs to go further to collect and conserve other indigenous Coffea species such as Coffea oyemensis Chev. in its germplasm collection in order to save it from genetic extinction and for future utilization.


The authors acknowledge the permission of the Director, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria to publish this paper.


Allard, R.W. 1960. Principles of Plant Breeding. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, London.

Anonymous. 1995. International Coffee Organization Bulletin.

Carvalho, A., F.P. Ferwerda, J.A. Frahm-Leliveld, D.M. Mdina, A.J.T. Mendes and L.C. Monaco. 1969. Coffee. Pp. 189-241 in Outlines of Perennial Crop Breeding in the Tropics (F.P. Ferwerda and F. Wits, eds.). Wageningen.

Chevalier, A. 1947. Les cafeiers du globe. III: 1-356, Paul Lechevalier, Paris.

Omolaja, S.S. and J.A. Williams. 1997. Improved nursery techniques and management of coffee. Pp. 6-12 in Proceedings of the coffee production technology transfer workshop (G.A. Filani and C.R. Obatolu, eds.). Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria.

Omolaja, S.S. and C.R. Obatolu. 1998. Effect of rooting solutions and seasons on stem cutting propagation of robusta coffee (Coffea canephora). Trop. Agric. (in press).

Phillips, T.S. 1975. The West African Map. Longmans, London.

Pignone, D., K. Hammer, T. Gladis and P. Perrino. 1970. Collecting in southern Sardinia (Italy) 1995. Plant Genet. Resour. Newsl. 109:7-20.

Sands, F.B. 1968. Coffee Production in Western Nigeria. Research Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ibadan.

Wellman, F.L. 1961. Coffee: Botany, Cultivation and Utilization. Leonard Hill (Gooks) Ltd., London.

Williams, J.A. 1989. Progress in Tree Crop Research (2nd edition, pp. 127-140. Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Ibadan.

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