Viewpoint: Can regenerative agriculture save the beleaguered coffee industry from climate change devastation?

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Credit: Jay Ruskey/FRINJ
Credit: Jay Ruskey/FRINJ

[A]fter generations of cultivating coffee as a crop, irresponsible farming practices such as poor water management and dependency on harmful fertilizers and pesticides — which prioritize production and profit over sustainability — have left the coffee industry vulnerable to climate change. 

As temperatures rise, the likelihood of droughts increases exponentially, leading also to an uptick in diseases that kill the pollinating insects necessary for coffee to grow. But the impact is not irreversible and a process called regenerative agroforestry may be the key to preserving the industry upon which so many rely.

Regenerative agroforestry is a process in which native trees and shrubs are purposefully integrated into farming systems in order to increase soil nutrients, encourage biodiversity and act as natural pesticides and herbicides for other flora within the system. In its wild state, coffee plants thrive in forested or shaded environments, and the reintroduction of tall trees and plants mimics this natural habitat while maintaining optimal plantation design for high-yield coffee farming. Studies show that coffee plants grown in dense shade can thrive for centuries. 

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As climate change intensifies, the coffee industry will irreversibly change. Introducing regenerative agroforestry whenever possible will combat the environmental and economic impacts climate change has already taken on the industry.

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