Warming temperatures could lead to coffee crisis - study

Enjoy your morning coffee today - it might be harder to get if warm temperatures keep going.

New research from Oregon State University (OSU) shows even short heatwaves mean Coffea Arabica plants - the most common coffee plant - render them unable to produce flowers and fruit.

No flowers or fruit means no beans - which means no coffee.

The study is just the latest alarm bell for the coffee industry.

Last year, a report by the Climate Institute of Australia said the amount of suitable coffee-growing land around the world could be halved by 2050 if nothing is done about climate change.

Coffea Arabica is the world's dominant species, making up 65 percent of the 20 billion pounds of coffee consumed each year. The plant grows in 80 countries on four continents. 

OSU researchers studied how leaf age and heat duration affected the plant's recovery from heat stress.

The leaves were subjected to 48degC temperatures for either 45 or 90 minutes - a realistic environment under global climate change and surrounding air temperature.

It found younger leaves were slower to recover than mature ones and none of the plants which survived the simulated heatwave produced flowers or fruit.

The 90-minute timeframe also saw decreased water-use efficiency which could exacerbate effects of heat stress, particularly in drought conditions.

Lead author Danielle Marias, a plant physiologist with OSU's Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, says it shows how sensitive the plant is to temperature.

And with climate change estimates predicting temperatures to rise over this century, that could be a disaster for growers reliant on the plant and for consumers reliant on their caffeine fix.

The Climate Institute study also said that by 2080, wild coffee - an important genetic resource for farmers, could become extinct.

In future decades, coffee could be grown away from the equators and further up mountains.

More than 120 million people in 70 countries are estimated to rely on the coffee value chain for their livelihoods, including 25 million farmers.