We plant new trees when existing trees get old or if their production declines. Many trees remain productive for 25 years or more, while others are past their prime or not as robust for a variety of reasons.
We have been planting mostly grafted trees on our farms. These trees are kona typic arabica in the upper scion with liberica rootstock. The University of Hawai’i Tropical Agricultural Department first introduced this type of graft in the late 1990’s. The resulting tree was called “Progeny 502”.
The root systems of the liberica species are extremely resilient, strong, and disease resistant while the kona typica produces the genetically pure and flavorful arabica beans.
A Kona coffee brewed from beans of ‘Progeny 502’ won the 2000 Kona Coffee Cultural Festival cupping competition.
In recent testing of this grafted tree, the production of coffee cherries almost doubled that of non-grafted trees, and the flavor of the resulting coffee stayed the same or in some cases even improved.
Spring is a good time to plant new trees in Kona. Each year we replace about 200 trees. The ground is warm and moist and afternoon rain is steady and predictable. The new trees are called “keikis” (Hawaiian for all things baby). We expect the keiki trees to begin producing after 2 years or in some cases we will see a few cherries in the first year.