Liberica climate adaptation approach for the coffee industry

Published: December 26, 2023 08:23 AM

Written by: Admin

Significant disturbances in the worldwide supply chain could potentially allow Coffea Liberica, also known as liberica, a coffee species that has long lay in the background behind robusta and arabica, to flourish commercially.


One of the primary conclusions drawn from a recent paper by a team of agricultural scientists headed by famous coffee plant scientist Aaron P. Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK, is this.


Research indicates that the ideal environment for commercial coffee production will change since climate change, especially for the production of higher-quality but typically more sensitive arabica coffee. As a result, the authors concluded that creating new crop plants will probably be a more successful adaptation strategy than moving farms or changing operations at already-existing farms.


"With a focus on forgotten or underutilized species, particularly those that were once cultivated and exported at scale, the idea of broadening the coffee crop portfolio, with new cultivars, hybrids, and alternative species (including underutilized crop species) is receiving renewed attention," the authors wrote.


It is true that liberica has a long and fascinating history of cultivation and marketing that dates back to the early 1800s. More recently, there have been initiatives to promote liberica in Southeast Asian countries like Borneo and Malaysia as well as East African nations like Uganda and South Sudan.


The writers discuss liberica's commercial rise to popularity in the 1880s and how it might be used in conjunction with arabica in areas of the world that produce coffee.


They wrote, "Replacement of arabica did not materialize, but during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the world's low elevation tropical belt—including South America, several Caribbean islands, Africa, the Indian Ocean Islands (including Madagascar and the Seychelles), Asia (including India, Malaysia, and Java), and Australasia—saw a significant expansion of the area available for coffee production using liberica.


Larger fruits and seeds (beans) are produced by Liberica, which can grow to be 5 to 11 meters tall, dwarfing arabica and robusta shrubs and possibly causing some challenges for coffee pickers and processors. Nonetheless, the main barrier to the species' commercialization up to this date has been its undesirable flavor.


In order to address this problem, the authors here turn to excelsa, a liberica variety that has recently attracted the attention of academics and industry players looking for ways to differentiate their products from the competition, diversify their crop offerings, or adapt to the changing environment.


The authors point out that because excelsa was found during the decline of commercial liberica in the late 1880s and early 1890s, it has previously been disregarded. Excelsa may have many advantages over regular Liberica in terms of coffee quality and cultivation requirements, even if it is a relatively unknown variety on the market. Liberica has been shown to be resistant to pests and illnesses.


The authors stated of excelsa, "It was often considered superior to liberica in terms of its agronomic and sensory attributes." It was known for producing large yields that, in certain regions, were on level with or higher than those of robusta and Arabic. Additional advantageous agronomic characteristics were the capacity to tolerate reduction, synchronous fruit ripening, and densely clustered fruits at the leaf nodes (similar to robusta but distinct from many liberica varieties).


The authors point out that even though coffee has a long history of cultivation and a bright future in terms of sensory attributes and other factors that are important to businesses, the industry is unlikely to progress further market-driven research or commercial adoption unless there are substantial changes to the current supplies of robusta and arabica coffee.


However, these disruptions might occur in a few decades for the millions of people who make their living on the production of coffee.


Underutilized species are only likely to become widely used in response to significant disturbances in the supply chain, as the history of coffee growing shows, according to the scientists. In the case of coffee, the huge destruction brought about by the coffee leaf rust pandemic around the end of the nineteenth century led to the introduction and scaling of liberica, and then robusta.


The degree and severity of climate-related problems, maybe in combination with pest and disease issues as agents of disruption in the arabica and robusta supply chains, are probably going to be important determinants in the coming back of liberica (including excelsa) as a significant agricultural plant species.


Le Green Coffee is the premier supplier of coffee from Indonesia, established in 2023 with a strong passion for Indonesian coffee.


Jl. Raya Darmo Permai II/36 Pradahkalikendal Dukuh Pakis Surabaya, 60226 East Java Indonesia

Our Location
© 2024 - Le Green Coffee Indonesia. All rights reserved.