Comment: Protecting the origins of coffee

coffeeCoffee is a hugely popular beverage and contributes immeasurably to human productivity, but demand has risen by 50% in the past 20 years while coffee production is vulnerable to disease and climate change. Mehrabi and Lashermes observe that the popular arabica coffee comes from the plant Coffea arabica, which arose in Ethiopia from a hybridization of two other species 10,000 – 50,000 years ago.  Ethiopia remains the center of coffee genetic diversity, but without concerted efforts, that diversity is likely to be eroded. The authors point out that economic challenges faced by coffee growers in Ethiopia, and their accompanying need to explore other crop systems, can contribute to removal of wild coffee populations. They also point to the lack of infrastructure and support to ensure the conservation of coffee’s genetic diversity. They conclude “Dealing with these local challenges should be a global priority for the coffee industry”. Nature Plants 10.1038/nplants.2016.209 Image credit

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