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Green coffee carbon footprint

A road map to generate scientific evidence on the potential for soil carbon sequestration in coffee production systems

May 22, 2024

An ISIC-commissioned literature review, carried out by the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has explored existing scientific evidence on mapping and measuring soil organic carbon (SOC) levels in coffee farms.

Soil organic carbon is an indicator of soil health, as well as a measure of the ability of farms, their crops, organic matter, and land within them to absorb and store carbon.  Assessing the potential for increasing soil carbon stock was identified by ISIC as an area within the field of sustainable coffee farming which would benefit from more consistent and representative measurement.

Methods to increase SOC in coffee farms can form part of strategies to reduce the net carbon footprint from agricultural production. Potential solutions include the use of agroforestry or intercropping techniques to increase overall volume of organic matter, and therefore ability to absorb carbon, as well as farming practices themselves.

The CIAT review found limitations with existing scientific evidence and measurement on SOC including, varying farm systems; differing methodologies for depth of soil measurement; and not accounting for change in land-use. They propose a roadmap addressing these limitations for future research in three stages:

  1. A protocol for robust SOC data collection in coffee – developing guidelines and recommendations for the best methodology to collect and analyse soil samples
  2. Large survey of coffee farms in prioritised regions/farm archetypes – to model SOC stocks and validate existing methods
  3. Establish new long-term trials – providing robust data over time for improved understanding of SOC changes, causal relationships, and underlying mechanisms.

The full CIAT review can be accessed here.

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