Growing Coffee
Crop Nutrition Advice

Everything you need to know about coffee fertilization, best practice, suitable products, field trials and more.

Advice for growing Coffee (Coffea arabica &  Coffea canephora; Robusta)

  • Coffee performs better in soils with pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

  • In soils with low pH (below 5) aluminum contents are likely the most important limiting yield factor. Additionally, phosphorus, bases and micronutrients contents might be low and deficiency symptoms could appear.

  • Main arabica coffee regions are found in medium to high altitudes from 800 to 2000 masl. Higher altitudes are associated with better cup quality. Robusta coffee mostly grown in Brazil and Vietnam grows well at lower altitudes and is associated with lower cup quality than arabica varieties.

  • Optimum vegetative growth occurs when air temperature is between 18 – 25ºC.

  • Coffee crops require hydric stress to initiate blooming. Longer, dry periods produce higher bloom peaks and harvest accumulations.

Coffee at maturation phase

Red coffee beans before the harvest

Nutrient requirements

Estimated nutrient uptake (kg/t):

Green coffee beans315.

Source: Manual Cafetero, 2013

Dynamic of nutrient uptake over a crop season in coffee

Accumulated amount of fruit NPK after blooming peak in four Colombian locations

Role of nutrients

Key parameterNP2O5K2OMgOSO3CaO
Plant Growth++++++++
Fruit quality+/-+++/-++
Root and leaf development+/-++++
Dry matter content++++++

Adapted from: FAO – Arabica coffee manual for Lao-PDR

Recommendations on coffee fertilization

Coffee fertilization must be done based on crop stage and following the 4R stewardship: Right dose, Right source, Right moment, Right place.

Stage 1: Seeding

For this stage, lasting 4 to 6 months, it is important to have a well-conditioned substrate in the bags. The use up to 50% of composted manure, organic materials or fine sand mixed with soil plus the addition of phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and micronutrients allows to obtain vigorous plants for establishment.

Stage 2: Establishment

After being planted in fields, coffee plants take from 12 to 18 months of growth to get established, before first bloom. For this stage, coffee fertilization must be done applying individual doses per plant based on soil chemical analyses and plant requirements. Fertilization programs vary widely between country and even within the same country due to soil, climate, variety, plant density and management practice differences.

Stage 3: Productive

After coffee crops reach the blooming peak, part of fertilization will be focused on beans filling and applications can be done from 2 to 4 times a year depending on rainy periods.

Coffee plantations showing the effect of applying balanced nutrition


Only NPK                                                         NPK+Ca+Mg+S+B+Zn 

Coffee Trials

Coffee with Polysulphate
Bao Lam district, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam , 2015


Yield Increase
Coffee with Polysulphate
Di Linh district, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam, 2015


Yield Increase


Here are some frequently asked questions we received from farmers regarding coffee.

  • As all crops, coffee requires the 14 essential nutrients which must be always supplied and more specially if soils have low contents. During harvest time or productive stage, the nutrient requirement follows this order: K>N>Ca>P>Mg>S>micronutrients

  • Depending on type and amount of lime materials, it is possible to supply more than 50% of Ca and Mg requirements. However, it is also necessary to apply more soluble sources of Ca to compensate its higher requirement during the first 60 days after blooming. Polysulphate has demonstrated to be an important soluble source of Ca to be applied at least one month before blooming peaks.

  • Coffee has shown high tolerance to soil Al contents over 1 cmol/kg. However in soils with low base saturation, Al saturations must be lower than 25% to avoid negative effects on growth and yield.

Do you have more questions?

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