Climate projections indicate Puerto Rico will become warmer and drier, adversely affecting one of the island’s best known crops, resulting in less favourable growing conditions for coffee.
A study by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Caribbean Climate Hub shows that if greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures continue to increase, we may see a reduction in land with suitable conditions for coffee. Climate adaptation practices and research can help growers respond to new conditions.
“This study is part of the USDA’s effort to develop and deliver information to help reduce the risks of climate variability and change”, said Dr William Gould, Director of the Caribbean Hub based at the USFS International Institute of Tropical Forestry. The study, published in the journal Climatic Change, is the first to use fine-resolution climate projections for Puerto Rico to model the effects of warming temperatures and changing rainfall patterns on coffee growing conditions.
Arabica accounts for the majority of production in Puerto Rico. High temperatures and low precipitation can result in diminished coffee quality and yields, plus increased exposure and sensitivity to insects and diseases.
“High greenhouse gas emission scenarios project temperature increases that, without adaptation, will make growing traditional varieties of Arabica challenging,” explained Stephen Fain, lead author of the study. “Our findings reveal differences in the potential effects of high and low CO2 emissions on coffee.”
Projections indicate that under high greenhouse gas emission scenarios Puerto Rico’s mean annual temperatures will exceed parameters suitable for Arabica by mid-century. “Under low emission scenarios we will continue to have areas suitable for growing Arabica using current practices, but under the high emissions trajectory that seems increasingly unlikely,” added Fain.