Editor: Professor Reinhold Muschler
Publisher: Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing
Published: September 27, 2022
The subtitle is “Improving social and environmental sustainability,” which indicates to readers the goal of the book; to illustrate how producers can improve in those domains.
The book is organized into two parts containing a total of fourteen chapters. Each chapter is further broken down into sections and the chapters are written to stand alone. Most of the chapters are written by different authors. Nearly every chapter contains a section titled “Where to look for further information” and most also have a references section. There are color photos and illustrations throughout the book.
Part 1 is titled “Improving social and environmental sustainability” and first describes global coffee production as it currently is with chapters titled “Global coffee production and sustainability” and “The coffee sector and smallholder farmers.” Chapter 3 provides details on “Assessing and managing the environmental and social impact of coffee production” by explaining a few ways to measure and quantify sustainability. The final four chapters of Part 1 explain a few possible ways of improving social and environmental sustainability (or at least ways of thinking about it) through “Specialty coffees as drivers of change,” “Fair-trade coffee: how fair is fair?,” “Advances in Arabica coffee breeding: developing and selecting the right varieties,” and “Optimizing post-harvest practices in coffee cultivation.”
Part 2, “Sustainable pest and disease management” dives into the nitty-gritty of one of the key issues regarding sustainable production: pest and disease management. Multiple chapters in this section talk about integrated pest management (IPM), which is the deployment of a combination of practices to address pests and plant diseases using “current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment.” (US EPA, OCSPP, 2015) The goal being the control of pests and diseases in a way that is both effective and sensitive to the environment.
For example, the last three chapters of the book, chapters 12-14 all deal with integrated management:
Chapter 12: Integrated management of nematodes of coffee: Regina M. D. G. Carneiro and Marcilene F. A. dos Santos, Embrapa Recursos Genética e Biotecnologia, Brazil;
Chapter 13: Integrated management of soil-borne insect and fungal pests of coffee : Cesar J. Fanton and Renan B. Queiroz, Instituto Capixaba de Pesquisa, Assistência Técnica e Extensão Rural (INCAPER), Brazil; and Laércio Zambolim, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Brazil;
Chapter 14: Integrated weed management in coffee production: Cláudio Pagotto Ronchi, Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil;
Integrated management is an important concept for sustainable agriculture because it takes a systemic approach — it addresses pests and/or diseases from several different aspects of their lifecycle in a way that takes into consideration the complexity of an ecosystem.
For example, chapter 11, “Coffee wilt disease” by Julie Flood first documents the history and impact of the disease, its host range, symptoms, and ecology, then it describes the historical management process of the disease, which amounted to sanitation and screening/breeding for resistance. When farmers encountered infected plants, the recommendation was to uproot and burn the material. Prevention techniques boiled down to farmers planting pre-screened breeds verified to have resistance to the fungus that causes the disease. This process proved successful and the disease was classified as a “minor disease, of little importance to arabica and robusta coffee production.”
However, in the 70’s and 80’s the disease began to re-emerge from abandoned plots and the standard approach of ‘uprooting and long term breeding programs’ was proving too slow to contain the spread of the disease. An integrated management program called the Regional Coffee Wilt Programme (RCWP) was developed, as recommended by Dr. Flood—a scientist you should know. The RCWP began with several studies and surveys, such as biological surveys in country, socio-economic surveys in country, studies of the pathogen, of host variation and screening for resistance, of transmission pathways and management, of environmental influence on infection, and also studies of agronomic treatments of coffee wilt disease.
The resulting recommendations are illustrative of integrated management:
- Regular monitoring to detect infections early
- Regular cleaning of tools to reduce the spread
- Minimizing tree wounds while slashing weeds
- Uprooting and burning infected trees and leaving a fallow period of at least 3 months
- Discourage the use of using infected wood as firewood
- Regional and national distribution of pre-screened, resistant plant material
- Improved preparedness for disease epidemics among government and non-government organizations
- Breeding for resistance remained the ideal strategy
Note that Chapter 11, “Coffee wilt disease” is an open-access chapter distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (CC BY) and is available to download here.
I am using chapter 11 as an example of what I hoped the book would provide; actionable intelligence that can be used by extension agents for example, when supporting smallholder farmers. Climate-smart production largely achieves that. Most chapters have a subsection dedicated to recommending a course of action, such as “weed control methods” (chpt. 14), or “natural enemies for key insect pests in coffee agroecosystems” (chpt. 8).
The one notable exception might be chapter 10, “Ecological perspectives on the coffee leaf rust.” Rather than providing direct recommendations for ‘improving social and environmental sustainability,’ this chapter highlights an area of research the authors Zachary Hajian-Forooshani and John Vandermeer feel needs more attention. The authors state the following towards the end of the chapter:
The scope of this chapter has been made intentionally narrow to focus on what the authors consider to be potentially fruitful areas of research that they hope to bring attention to the larger community of coffee researchers as well as other agroecologists.(Climate-Smart Production of Coffee: Improving Social and Environmental Sustainability, 2022, p. 313)
Their goal with the chapter is to “refocus an ecological approach to the problem of CLR” by discussing “the community ecology and natural enemies of CLR around the world.” For me, this made for a very interesting and new take on thinking about how to control CLR. They present two case studies of ecological complexity and the coffee leaf rust:
- The regionally distinct ecological communities of Puerto Rico and Mexico
- Theoretical perspectives on space and environmental forces
In keeping with integrated management, their focus takes a complex systems approach, considering as much of the ecology surrounding the pathogen as possible, rather than a myopic or narrowly focused approach of ‘my coffee trees have CLR, now how do I get rid of it?’
This book would make a fine addition to the library of any serious coffee extension agent, Q Processor Pro, and even conscientious green coffee buyers. It illustrates how to think about improving the social and environmental sustainability of coffee production; by thinking of and treating coffee production as a complex system of interrelated, interdependent parts.
- US EPA, OCSPP. (2015). Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Principles. https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/integrated-pest-management-ipm-principles
- Climate-smart production of coffee: improving social and environmental sustainability. (2022). Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing.