Coffee, avocados and cashews are crops that are popular with consumers and essential to the livelihoods of tropical farmers. But how will the climate crisis impact their future growth?
A new study published in PLOS One on Wednesday examined how suitable growing areas are for these delicious and important harvests would change over the next 30 years and found that they would all change significantly.
“Coffee was found to be the most vulnerable, with negative climate impacts dominating across all major producing regions,” the study authors wrote. “For cashew and avocado, suitable areas for cultivation are expected to expand globally, while in most major producing countries, the most suitable areas may shrink.”
The study team used 14 different climate models to determine the future suitability for growing avocados, cashews and Coffeea arabica, the most popular coffee variety. They looked at how the ideal conditions for the three crops would be affected both globally and country by country through 2050 based on three greenhouse gas emissions scenarios: a rapid reduction in emissions that would limit warming to 1.6 degrees Celsius, a moderate reduction that would limit warming to 2.4 degrees Celsius and a high emissions scenario that would see global warming exceed four degrees Celsius, according to National Geographic.
According to the study, the elements of suitability they considered included long dry seasons, average high and low temperatures, annual rainfall, low soil pH, poor soil texture and steep slope. What they found was that weather conditions were more important to crop success than soil conditions.
Coffee was the crop most at risk of losing due to climate change. Across all emissions scenarios, the number of regions suitable for cultivation dropped by 50%, National Geographic reported. This was mainly due to the annual rise in temperatures in major coffee producing countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia and Colombia.
Cashew nut came out better, increasing their proper territory by 17%, BBC News reported. However, individual countries dependent on the harvest could still suffer. They would lose significant favorable territories in India and half of their favorable cultivation areas in Benin.
The most suitable area for avocados was expected to decline by 14 to 41 percent in places like the Dominican Republic and Indonesia, but moderately suitable areas are expected to increase by 12 to 20 percent, according to National Geographic. Mexico, which is currently the world’s largest producer of avocados, could see its suitable acreage increase by 66-87%. However, the big Peruvian grower would lose around half of its suitable acreage, BBC News reported.
Overall, the study authors said it is possible to alter the range of the three crops as the climate changes, but it must be done with caution.
“In areas that may become more suitable for growing these crops, it is important to ensure that there are no negative environmental impacts such as deforestation,” the author told BBC News. principal of the study, Roman Grüter of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences. “In all these changes, local actors, local communities must be involved in these processes of change. It should be really participatory.
The study confirms previous warnings about the threat climate change poses to coffee, but expands them to reveal the complicated ways in which rising global temperatures are affecting other crops.
“Take your computer and type in climate change followed by your favorite food, and you’ll get, half the time, a story of climate change affecting your favorite food,” Our changing menu author Michael Hoffman told National Geographic.