The American government is stepping in to help farmers in Central America battle a disease that is devastating coffee crops in several important coffee-producing countries. The disease is a fungus known as "coffee rust," it sounds absolutely terrifying, and it could be enabled by climate change.
What does it do?
Attacks. The roya fungus is taking a toll in places like Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras. In Guatemala, a national emergency has been declared.
First, parts of the arabica bush's glossy green leaves turn a dirty orange. Then dark dead patches appear and become holes. The infection spreads to the ripening berries, turning them from bright red to a zombie-skin grey.
What does it attack?
Your precious coffee. Arabica, the bean that makes up many delicious premium coffees, is particularly susceptible.
What does this mean for me if I am an unreasonable consumer of coffee?
It seems this will either hit your wallet or force you to drink more of those subpar coffee blends that come from Asia. Or both.
Washington estimates that production could be down anywhere from 15 percent to 40 percent in coming years, and that those losses could mean as many as 500,000 people could lose their jobs. Though some countries have brought the fungus under control, many of the poorer coffee-producing countries in Latin America don't see the rust problem getting better anytime soon."
What can defeat coffee rust?
Nothing yet, not even unicorn tears. But the government is reportedly partnering up with Texas A&M University to find a way to eliminate it.
The government cares that much about my delicious coffee?
No. The chief concern "is about the economic security of these small farms abroad."
Is there a chart that I can show my friends to help make real the tragedy that is the Coffee Rust Plague?
At whom should we be mad about coffee rust?
Possibly ourselves. Making their voices heard this morning are some angry tweeps, who are arguing that climate change/the folly of man are responsible here.
Coffee Rust is the first plant disease epidemic clearly caused by global warming. -Caitilyn Allen #asm2014— Aaron Garoutte (@AaronGaroutte) May 18, 2014
Allen: Coffee rust disease increased massively in the Americas, due to warmer climes allowing the rust fungus to survive. #asm2014— Hilary Lappin-Scott (@lappinscott) May 18, 2014
Allen: Coffee rust fungus cannot survive below 10C. Global warming allowing disease to flourish at higher altitudes— William Wade (@oralmolecol) May 18, 2014
Others yet attribute the rust to changes in farming techniques. Scientist Peter Baker for the Center for Agricultural Bioscience International isn't so sure:
The fungus enjoys a “nice long period of humid conditions and that’s what increasingly we see with these long cycles of wet weather.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.