Coffee threatened by climate change, disease, pests

February 14, 2018, American Chemical Society
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

According to connoisseurs, the tastiest of coffee beans come from the Coffea arabica shrub, a fragile weakling that is susceptible to diseases and pests. And climate change isn't making things any easier for the plant. An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, reports that although coffee producers and scientists agree that C. arabica is under siege, they don't agree on what to do about it.

Senior Editor Alex Scott notes that most hold beans from C. arabica in the highest esteem. But the plant is facing some challenges. It is not very genetically diverse compared to most other crops, such as rice and soy, making it less adaptable to changing conditions. In addition, leaf rust has been a major foe, killing off large tracts of the plants across Central America in 2008. Pests, such as the coffee borer beetle, also can wreak havoc. And according to research published last year by London's Royal Botanic Gardens, will make up to 60 percent of the growing land in Ethiopia—a major supplier—unsuitable for coffee cultivation by the end of the century.

A debate on how to rescue C. arabica is raging. World Coffee Research, an organization set up by coffee producers, is working on a plan that includes crossbreeding and better farming practices. Some scientists, however, say that traditional breeding will take too long. They advocate genetic engineering techniques to produce a hardier plant. And some agrochemical firms are banking on improved pesticides and other technologies that they're developing to help growers. It's unclear which approach or set of approaches will win out, but coffee drinkers everywhere are hoping they can continue to count on a robust, full-flavored cup of Joe for a long time to come.

Explore further: How the coffee industry is about to get roasted by climate change

More information: "Why the end of the world's most popular coffee could be nigh," … lar-coffee-nigh.html

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Floodplain forests under threat

March 19, 2019

A team from the Institute of Forest Sciences at the University of Freiburg shows that the extraction of ground water for industry and households is increasingly damaging floodplain forests in Europe given the increasing intensity ...

Scientists discover common blueprint for protein antibiotics

March 19, 2019

A discovery by researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) has uncovered a common blueprint for proteins that have antimicrobial properties. This finding opens the door to design and development ...

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.