A new study from the Oregon State University suggests that coffee is very sensitive to changing weather conditions. In fact Arabica coffee plants when subjected to heat waves showed an inability to produce flowers and fruit.
Looking at climate change it is predicted that we will see more high intensity hear waves. Crops in the tropics like coffee have been thought to be particularly vulnerable to heat stress for a number of reasons. There can be higher radiation load, an increase in heat wave intensity and frequency in the tropics.
The study was conducted by the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. Arabica plants were exposed to heat that produced leaf temperatures of around 120 degrees for 45 or 90 minutes. It was felt that this best simulated global climate change. This was conducted in greenhouses in both dry and wet heat conditions.
The study found that young leaves were very slow to recover compared to older leaves. In fact none of the plants that experienced the heat produced any flowers or fruit. This could clearly be devastating for coffee farmers around the world as no flowering means no bean production. But as bean production also supports entire communities around the world it isn’t just the immediate farmers who could lose their livelihoods. Entire communities built around coffee farms could be affected, causing major social and economic change.
The effect of the heat also resulted in decreased water use efficiency which could worsen the effects of hear particular during a drought.