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Kenya lab babies: SL14, SL28 and SL34


Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

The coffee plant is the crop that supports the economy of many communities in the undeveloped or developing countries, literally, one of the keys to saving millions of people from starvation in our modern world. However, the disturbance caused by global warming, the world economy, local political issues and so on never stops impacting the coffee planting industry. The crisis caused by climate change has always been the broadest and most long-standing, scientists and farmers, therefore, work together to create new coffee varieties for the 'new earth' environment.

The laboratories started their projects since the 1930s, and the famous one with significant achievements is the Scott Agricultural Laboratories, which established by the colonial British government in Kenya during 1922, their speciality was tree hunting. Hunting for the 'new' varieties from heirlooms or good quality coffee trees from local estates in Kenya, like SL14, SL28, SL34. Which, you can easily see them in the speciality coffee market.


All the coffee varieties named with 'SL' were born in the Kenya Scott Laboratories during years 1935 to 1939. The aim of projects was to look for coffee trees that are genetically tolerate to harsh growing conditions like drought tolerance, susceptible to diseases and pests. They achieve by selecting seeds of Kenya heirloom trees retaining the targeted characteristic and directly use the seeds of those trees for intensive breeding. The SL14 was from a single heirloom named Drought Resistant II, while SL34 was selected from a single tree named 'French Mission'(the other name for Bourbon despiting the fact that recent genetic tests have indicated that SL34 is related to the Typica instead.), from a local private estate. When we talk about SL34, the seed of its mother tree French Mission was originated from La Réunion island in Kenya which was in another agricultural mission established in 1893 at Bura. SL28 is a Bourbon, it is the most successful among the three as they are now widely planted not only in Africa but as well in Latin America. It's original seed was collected from in the Moduli district and was selected from a 42 trees of various yield and from a single tree in the group Tanganyika Drought Resistant. Then the SL28 was widely spread for breeding as it fits a wide range of altitudes and tolerance to drought and most major diseases.



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