Coffee is a highly environmentally-dependent crop and the increase of a few degrees of average temperature in coffee-growing regions around the world threatens both the steady supply of quality Arabica coffees and the livelihood of millions of people who grow and produce coffee. Climate models and crop-niche suitability predictors from studies conducted by CIAT¹ show considerable changes in both the quality of coffee beans and the altitudinal zones suitable for production. Unless additional efforts are made to strengthen adaptive capacity today, there will likely be heavy economic losses across the coffee supply chain, as well as the disappearance of important ecosystem services and social disruption among coffee growing communities. As such, World Coffee Research has placed a special ‘cross cutting’ emphasis on this particular threat to the global supply of Arabica coffees.
World Coffee Research is taking a holistic approach to mitigate the effects of climate change on the supplies of quality coffees, the quality of that supply and livelihoods of the producers who are the stewards of that supply. Our approach is based on the genetic improvement of the arabica coffee species for stronger tolerance to climate change induced agronomic constraints to high yields and quality. This approach is pragmatic, tried, and true and results in mitigation technology, ready for distribution to farmers in the medium and long terms. The WCR approach is further strengthened by collaborative work in the areas of genetic diversity, predictive modeling, biotechnology, and cooperation with other Climate Change organizations for synergy and complementarity. The following programs of World Coffee Research are specific to mitigating the effects of climate change on coffee production and quality:
- Development of heat tolerant, high quality, high yielding F1 hybrids and pure line varieties for specific eco-geographic zones
- Work with key coffee breeding centers through WCR grants to CIRAD, CATIE, India, Kenya, Indonesia
- Assess germplasm collections for heat tolerance and related traits
- Develop pre-breeding populations through introgression or ‘stacking’ of heat tolerant genes with high quality and high yielding varieties
- Select compatible and appropriate ‘best’ parents showing highest specific combining ability
- Initiate discussions with seed industry
- Within each eco-geographic zone, select and create F1 hybrids tolerant to 2-3⁰C (4-6⁰F) temperature increases while maintaining or increasing quality and yield
- Evaluate populations for eventual pure line variety development
- Screening current germplasm collections and collecting new germplasm for heat tolerance mechanisms like extended fruit fill time as well as other climate change induced constraints like insects, disease and drought
- Collecting and compiling climate change related data from the WCR Global Multi-location Variety trials for use in the scientific understanding of climate change effects and to better predict its effects more precisely in terms of volumes of coffee affected by geographic location
- Forming strategic alliances with appropriate NGOs and on-going bi-lateral Climate Change mitigating programs and projects in specific countries to educate grower groups and play our role of providing appropriate technology and solutions for the people affected.