In coffee breeding, T5296 is an important coffee leaf-rust-resistant plant that is nonetheless not recommended for farmers because it is not stable from one generation to the next. Cuscatleco and Paranaima are both pedigree selections of T5296 made by national breeding programs in El Salvador and Honduras, respectively. In addition, many of the newer F1 hybrid varieties were created by crossing T5296 with Ethiopian landraces (examples include Centroamericano, Milenio, and Mundo Maya).
T5296 has its origins with the earliest days of the Central American regional consortium called PROMECAFE, which was founded in 1978 with funding from USAID’s Regional Office for Central American Programs (ROCAP) and Instituto Agronômico de Campinas (IAC) in Brazil to respond to the threat posed by the recent arrival of coffee leaf rust in the region.
Detailed history of the Sarchimor group of varieties
In 1958 or 1959, the Centro de Investigação das Ferrugens do Cafeeiro of Portugal (CIFC), famous for its research into coffee leaf rust, received a lot of Timor Hybrid seeds from the island of Timor. Timor Hybrid is a natural cross between C. arabica and C. canephora (Robusta) that appeared spontaneously on the island of Timor in 1920s. Its Robusta genetics conferred rust resistance into the variety. From the two shipments of seeds that CIFC received, they had selected two plants for use in breeding based on their high resistance to leaf rust. In 1967, breeders in Portugal began work to create new varieties of coffee that would be resistant to the disease, but also have a compact stature that could be planted more densely. One of the rust-resistant Timor Hybrid plants, called HDT CIFC 832/2, was crossed with compact Villa Sarchi to create hybrid 361 (H361). The hybrid was dubbed “Sarchimor.”
They created the hybrid just in time for the arrival of leaf rust in the Americas.
After some initial testing at IAC in Brazil, in 1971 CIFC sent H361 out for field trials in experimental centers in several countries, including Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Laos, Malawi, Mozambique, Sao Tome, Thailand and Venezuela. In response to the crisis, Central American countries banded together to form the Regional Cooperative Program for the Technological Development and Modernization of the Coffee Industry (PROMECAFE) in 1978.
In Central America, H361 was first sent to the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) research station in Costa Rica. The population studied there was given the designation T5296 (“T” represents Turrialba, where CATIE is based). The work of selective breeding on T5296 was led by researcher AJ Bettencourt. From this central trial, T5296 was sent out to national breeding programs in the region. In Honduras, further generations of selection led to the variety that is known as Parainema. In El Salvador, further generations of selection led to the variety that is known as Cuscatleco. In Puerto Rico, the Sarchimor population was called Limani. Similar selections were done in Brazil to create Obata, Tupi, and IAPAR 59.
It’s important to note that, contrary to common belief, "Sarchimor" is not iteself a distinct variety. Instead, it is a group of many different distinct varieties with similar parentage.