An international team of researchers coordinated by CIRAD has developed a modelling tool capable of simulating agroforestry coffee production and its ecosystem services.
Developed in Costa Rica, the DynACof (Dynamic Agroforestry Coffee) model could help predict the impact of climate change on plantations and help identify adaptation through agroforestry.
Details of the open source model were published in journal Environmental Modelling and Software.*
The modelling tool was built after more than 10 years of data was collected from the Coffee-Flux observatory at Aquiares Coffee Farm in Costa Rica by a team of researchers from CIRAD, CATIE, the University of Costa Rica, ECOSUR in Mexico and INRAE.
The model, which strikes a balance between detail and speed, can be used to simulate the response of a coffee plantation according to various parameters such as CO2, temperature, rainfall and management. As a result, DynACof can not only predict the productivity of coffee plants, but also energy and water balance. This can be used for a whole range of coffee plantation types from agroforestry to full sun plantations.
“DynACof is the only model for coffee capable of simulating precise biophysical processes such as light distribution in a plot. And this can be done quickly, without having to develop complex equations,” said Rémi Vezy, a CIRAD researcher and the model’s main developer, explains.
DynACof has been released under an open source licence so that other research teams can use it for their own studies. It is hoped that, through this peer collaboration, DynACof will be developed further and opened to other geographical areas.
Users will be able to add additional shade species and management methods or add modules for nutrient cycling, soil respiration and pest or disease outbreaks.
In the medium term, the open source model could prove valuable to players across the coffee sector. Farms will be able to use the model to plan plantations according to tree density, to adjust the frequency of interventions and human resources required, to estimate their water consumption and other parameters. CIRAD believes it could be used by technical institutes, cooperatives or manufacturers, since the model can help predict production volumes and quality and evaluate ecosystem services. This could also be of interest in relation to certification schemes such as the Rainforest Alliance.
In the longer term, the DynACof team hope to simulate how agroforestry might help adapt coffee plantations to climate change. Initial results of Rémi Vezy’s PhD suggest that coffee production in Aquiares and Tarrazu in Costa Rica will be significantly impacted by rising temperatures. The results suggest that, by 2100, the Aquiares Coffee Farm will experience a steady decline in productivity. The farm is in a low altitude, hot area, that provides less than optimal conditions for growing coffee. In Tarrazu, a high altitude, cooler area, productivity is expected to increase until 2050 before also declining.
“These results need to be backed up,” Vezy warns. “For the time being, we believe that agroforestry could help reduce the impact of rising temperatures, but not prevent long-term decline in productivity.”
*Vezy R, le Maire G, Christina M, Georgiou S, Imbach P, Hidalgo H G, Alfaro E J, Blitz-Frayret C, Charbonnier F, Lehner P, Loustau D, Roupsard O, 2020. “DynACof: A process-based model to study growth, yield and ecosystem services of coffee agroforestry systems” Environmental Modelling and Software