Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, ranking only below tea as the most consumed beverage in the world.
It’s a 20 billion dollar industry, and it’s everywhere. You can find coffee at your local grocery store, in your local cafe, and ready to be served at your favorite restaurant, even though the beans were most likely grown halfway around the world.
Coffee’s popularity is no surprise, but what is surprising is how fragile and susceptible coffee trees are.
According to Hanna Neuschwander of World Coffee Research in an interview with Washington Post, the demand for coffee will double by 2050, but climate change, disease, and pests will reduce the amount of land suitable for growing coffee by half.
The coffee industry will be in serious jeopardy if more is not done to help make the coffee bean hardier in the face of a changing climate.
The coffee plant needs particular conditions to thrive and dry after being harvested. Too much rain or a dry heat wave could wipe out entire crops or give rise to disease and pests like nematodes and coffee rust.
Coffee comes from either arabica beans or robusta beans, and because of this exclusivity, farmers have been “inbreeding” plants for generations. This is yet another reason why the coffee tree is so delicate.
While other crops like corn and soybeans are constantly being improved upon, coffee farmers often lack the means to invest in technology that could help protect their livelihood.
World Coffee Research was formed as a response to these concerns about the future of coffee and are currently at the head of some exciting scientific advancements that could help save coffee.
A new plant called an F1 hybrid was described by the Washington Post as a kind of “super plant” that could offer high yields, would be more resilient, and wouldn’t lose any of the rich flavors we have come to know and love with coffee.
Centroamericano is one of the few F1 hybrids that are currently on the market, but again, lack of resources make distribution and planting the hybrids difficult for local coffee farmers.
World Coffee Research is aware of these problems and will continue to work to find coffee solutions before it’s too late.
By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer