Leaf rust outbreaks not caused by climate change: study

A group of scientists from the University of Exeter in the UK have rejected the popularly held view that coffee leaf rust (CLR) is caused by climate change.

Instead the study, which was published in Philosophical Transactions B, concludes that the CLR outbreak that devastated much of the Central American coffee crop in 2012 was caused by a “perfect storm” of conditions.

“Farmers weren’t treating coffee bushes as they normally would, and this was probably one of the factors that led to the rise in CLR,” said the study’s lead author and lecturer in microbial ecology, Dan Bebber. “The climate was conducive to CLR but there had been earlier periods of similar conditions when there wasn’t an outbreak.”

This thesis is at odds with the general consensus in the coffee industry, and backed up by a recent report from The Climate Institute, that climate change is responsible for the spread of the fungus.

The latest report from the University of Exeter suggests that management of coffee plantations and socioeconomic factors could also have impacted yield in Columbia, and recommends that more research be done to fully understand the reasons behind outbreak of coffee rust.

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