The thought that climate change is threatening our daily cup of coffee might be too much to bear for some of us. But the available land suited to grow Coffea arabica, the world’s most loved coffee bean, could be reduced by half by 2050, according to some predictions. Producers well know the challenges brought on by climate change are not reserved for the future – they already exist today.
In 2012, a coffee leaf rust outbreak brought on by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix riddled crops in Mexico’s Chiapas region. The deep green leaves which had soaked up Mexico’s blazing sun and abundant rain in this altitudinous coffee region, were now blistered brown or shed completely. This is the work of the fungus Hemileia vastatrix. It can only survive by feeding on the coffee plant, and in turn stifles the ability of its host to feed itself through photosynthesis. The result is a year-on-year dwindling harvest.
Coffee leaf rust (CLR) continued its spread through Latin America, where it still ravages crops from Mexico to Bolivia. Climate change has promised to increase the expansion and frequency of such epidemics, further burdening smallholder farmers. In a recently published paper I wrote with Claudia Ituarte-Lima and Thomas Elmqvist from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, we pinned the outbreak on just that: increased affectation by pests and diseases brought on by climate change.