Coffee countries are in jeopardy. What’s the coffee industry up to?

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I have always believed that we make our own destiny. By better understanding the impact we human beings have on nature, we need to learn the impact we are already causing on climate change.

What threatens the production of coffee?

Deforesting, farming and burning fossil release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By doing that, we are rising the global temperature causing the so-called phenomenon “greenhouse effect”, a natural process in which the Earth’s surface is getting warmer by the gases that are trapped into the atmosphere.

The increase in temperature are threatening the coffee industry; by 2050 there will be half arable land destined for coffee production and the demand will be double.

As the temperature rise up, coffee needs to grow up to the mountain where the temperature is still suitable and the plant are less disease-susceptible. Farmers are now in trouble, especially the smallholders that don’t have too much money and can’t afford any further investment. Climate change are changing the weather patterns and their intensity, increasing flood, storms and droughts.

Harvesting have never been so unpredictable like now because the coffee cherries are ripening faster and irregularly affecting their quality: farmers can’t even predict about harvesting seasons or next planting.

Scientist believe that we can only face this new challenge by acting as soon as possible: hopefully farmers are now adopting new strategies in response to these changes.

Given that the climate change is a worldwide problem, farmers are acting in different ways depending on location.

What measures can be undertaken?

Creating shade by planting banana trees is a common strategy to protect the plants from hotter temperatures. These plants are so important for many reasons: they also help to maintain a biodiversity environment in which bees are free to pollinate coffee blossoms; we also need to remember that coffee that grows in the shade of the trees usually develop more complex flavours.

Plants are not only useful to create shade but also to protect plants from storms, decreasing the impact of strong winds. And more, plants help tackling soil erosion, enriching the soil with their leaves and also help sequestering CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

Heavy rains and drought affect the production in many ways: they affect the quality of the beans and the coffee yields and they also spread coffee diseases and pests. That’s why now some farmers are building water tanks to save the water they will need during the periods of drought.

And last but not least, intercropping is another way that can help farmers to diversify their crops and to contribute to biodiversity. Some farmers for example are adding cereals, avocado trees, and banana trees to minimise the risk of a bad harvest (loads of coffee places will be no longer suitable to produce coffee so they need to think about moving out of coffee production).

I wrote down about how farmers can tackle the climate change.

But there is also a new hope for the future. Let’s talk about a new class of coffee varieties called F1 hybrids.

In the last decade researchers discover a new class of coffee varieties and they are currently study a new plant called CentroAmericano, part of the F1 hybrids varietals.

CentroAmericano is a crossbreed of two arabica. These plants are much more resistant to disease and produce a much higher yield than any other non-hybrids plants. Some experiments have already started, and some hybrids plants have just scored more than 90 points.

Bear in mind that these hybrids are currently only being tested (introducing new varietals can put a farmer in trouble because it takes many years to a plant to start producing coffee), although they may in future bring breakthroughs in the world of coffee. However, another good reason that can let us hope is that these hybrids are expected to produce coffee cherries within two years since they are planted.

But F1 hybrids are expensive as well: a hybrid variety is about 2,5 times more expensive than any other coffee plants hence it will take loads of time (and money of course) to access to these new plants.

The world of coffee has already started getting into this direction and that’s the only certainty we have at the moment: the coffee plants we are cultivating now will no longer be available soon.

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