UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURAL, CONSUMER AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES
PICTURE: FEDERICO CEBALLOS-SIERRA, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, SURVEYS COFFEE PLANTS IN HIS FAMILY FARM IN COLOMBIA. IT LEADS TO A STUDY THAT ESTIMATES HOW CLIMATE CHANGE IS AFFECTING COLOMBIAN COFFEE PRODUCTION…. Show more CREDIT: COLLEGE OF AC ES, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS.
URBANA, Ill. ¬- If your day started with a cup of coffee, there’s a good chance your morning brew came from Colombia. The country is home to some of the best arabica beans and is the third largest coffee producer in the world. Climate change poses new challenges for coffee production in Colombia as well as agricultural production around the world. However, a new study from the University of Illinois shows that the effects vary greatly depending on where the coffee beans grow.
“Colombia is a big country with a very different geography. The Andes traverse the country from the southwest to the northeast corner. Colombian coffee is currently growing in areas at different altitudes and the climate impact is likely to be very different in low and high altitude regions, ”said Sandy Dall’Erba, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE) and director of Das Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) at the University of I. Dall’Erba is co-author of the study published in Agricultural Systems.
Other studies on the future of coffee production have either looked at the country as a whole or focused on some areas within the country.
Dall’Erba and lead author Federico Ceballos-Sierra, who recently received a Ph.D. From ACE, view climate and coffee production for the entire country, divided into 521 parishes. This high level of detailed information enables them to identify significant regional differences.
“Overall, Colombia will not experience any reduction in productivity. However, when we examine the impact on communities, we see many differences that are lost on the national average. This has important implications for coffee farmers who live in one community compared to another, ”says Ceballos-Sierra.
“Low-altitude communities will be adversely affected by climate change and thousands of farmers and their families in these areas will put their livelihoods at risk as productivity is likely to fall below breakeven by mid-century,” he said.
The researchers analyze climate data from 2007 to 2013 in the 521 coffee-producing communities in Colombia and assess how temperature and precipitation affect the coffee yield. They then model the expected weather conditions from 2042 to 2061 and future coffee production for each municipality.
At the national level, they estimate that productivity will increase by 7.6% by 2061. However, this forecast covers a wide range of spatial differences, from a 16% increase in high altitude regions (1,500 meters or 5,000 feet above sea level) to 8.1%. Decrease in low altitude regions. Rising temperatures will benefit areas that are currently marginalized for coffee production, while areas that currently have the largest cultivation of coffee will be too hot and dry in the future.
Ceballos-Sierra grew up on a coffee farm in the Colombian district of Tolima and has seen firsthand how changing climatic conditions affect production.
“My family’s farm is around 1,900 meters above sea level. Twenty years ago people thought this was a coffee growing area on the top edge. But now we are achieving significant yield improvements, ”he says.
Meanwhile, coffee farmers in lowland areas are seeing declining yields as pests affecting coffee plants such as the coffee bean borer become more aggressive and common.
The research results have important implications for both coffee farmers and policy makers.
“In the future, it will be more beneficial to grow coffee higher up in the mountains. For those who can afford it, buying land in these areas would be a good investment, ”explains Dall’Erba. “The government could consider building infrastructure such as roads, water systems, electricity and communication towers that allow farmers in higher elevations to easily access nearby hubs and cities to sell their crops. We would expect more settlements and an increasing need for public services in these locations. “
However, because moving is expensive, it won’t necessarily be an option for most of Colombia’s 550,000 smallholder coffee farmers who need to find other ways to adapt. Farmers may be able to implement new strategies such as: B. more frequent watering, increased use of the forest shade or switching to different types of coffee or other crops.
“Our research shows what we expect in 20 to 40 years under current conditions and practices. Future studies can examine different adaptation strategies and their costs and evaluate which options are best. Beyond the 40 year horizon we are focused on, the outlook could be worse without adjustment. Production cannot move any further to higher levels. In Colombia there is no mountain peak above 5,800 meters, ”says Dall’Erba.
Colombia’s policymakers can also focus on helping farmers who can no longer make a living from growing coffee so they can move on to something else, the Ceballos-Sierra states.
“By looking at these regional estimates, we can make predictions and make policy suggestions. Specific location-based strategies should determine how coffee production adapts to future climatic conditions in Colombia, ”he concludes.
The researchers say their results may also apply to other coffee-growing regions, including Hawaii, California, and Puerto Rico in the United States.