Global warming is devastating coffee production around the world. This is not news. But what is news is that short-duration heat waves could also destroy coffee crops.

According to a new study from Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, coffee plants exposed to as little as 45 minutes of 120 degree Fahrenheit could lose the ability to produce flowers and fruit. While 120 degrees sounds hot, the study’s lead author Danielle Marias notes that it is a “realistic result of global climate change and also more than the surrounding air temperature.”

The study was set up to see how leaf age and heat duration affected Coffea arabica’s resiliency to heat stress. To test this, various ages of C. arabica plants were subjected to heat that would raise their leaf temperatures to 120 degrees for a period of either 45 or 90 minutes. The researchers found that younger leaves were slower to recover from heat stress than those of older leaves, but that none of the plants exposed to either duration of heat were able to produce fruit.

Marias stated:

In both treatments, photosynthesis of expanding leaves recovered more slowly than in mature leaves, and stomatal conductance of expanding leaves was reduced in both heat treatments. Based on the leaf energy balance model, the inhibited stomatal conductance reduces evaporative cooling of leaves, which could further increase leaf temperatures, exacerbating the aftereffects of heat stress under both full and partial sunlight conditions, where C. arabica is often grown.

This study is a call for more immediate action on climate change. As the average temperatures around the world creep up, so too do the temperatures of the heat spikes, putting coffee production in imminent danger as heat spikes get closer and closer to that 120 degree benchmark. This does not bode well for the future of coffee.

Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.

*top image via Oregon State University

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