Coast to coast, many Americans—myself included–cannot imagine a day without coffee. But coffee is a vulnerable crop that is, so to speak, in hot water. Coffee cultivation faces many challenges, including climate change. As demand for coffee increases, yields decrease due to increased drought, pests and damaging storms. In addition, coffee lacks genetic diversity. And coffee is linked to many social justice issues, as well.
In the United States, coffee is produced in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and more recently in California. However, the U.S. Congress allocated funds to expand the USDA’s research and development in 2019, the USDA Coffee and Cacao Crop Germplasm Committee was formed.
The chair of that committee is Sarada Krishnan, Ph.D., also directs horticulture and global initiatives at Denver Botanic Gardens. “Coffee is an international crop, and it surely is a crop whose sustainability every country needs to address. The entire coffee value chain needs to address sustainability, including consumers,” said Krishnan, who owns coffee farms in Jamaica.
One of the foremost authorities on coffee, Krishnan also is working on a coffee research project in Puerto Rico, affected by both hurricanes and earthquakes. Dr. Sarada Krishnan was contracted by World Coffee Research to serve as the lead scientist in a research project to study the feasibility of using solar panels to generate energy for coffee farms while also providing shade for the coffee plants.
I’ve wanted to interview Dr. Krishnan for years and finally caught up with her. This feature on her and her passion for coffee was published April 11,2021, in The Denver Gazette, and you can read it at this link.