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If you’re ever asked the question ‘How many varieties of coffee are there?” and this leaves you scratching your head and floundering for an intelligent answer UKVending has the solution: There are thousands but only a handful of them used in coffee production globally. This over reliance on just a few varieties could, potentially, sometime in the future led to a major problem.

For example if, heaven forbid, a disease would render the crop dead; where would we be? Well fear not, as around the world there are thousands of researchers working actively with those thousands of varieties I mentioned earlier to ensure that the world supply of coffee remains healthy in an unknown future world.

So how are scientists looking to preserve coffee in the future? It all comes down to genetic resource conservation.

In the lush, rolling green hills of Costa Rica’s Central Valley and not far from the rumbling, troublesome sound of a large, active yet majestic volcano there sits the small city of Turrialba. This unassuming location is one of the world’s most important coffee research centres, the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre, usually shortened to CATIE. This Institution is dedicated to the collection, study and preservation of a huge variety of tropical and sub tropical plants and holds in its gene seed bank the identities of nearly 2,000 varieties of coffee.

Gene banks, like the one at CATIE, are increasingly becoming important resources as global warming, population growth and other environmental factors are increasingly putting pressure on the coffee plants. The banks preserve coffee’s unique genetics and provide researchers with source material from which better, more disease and climate proof varieties can be bred.

Diversity of the coffee plant is at the heart of the work being undertaken by the Global Conservation Strategy for Coffee, a recent partnership between World Coffee Research and Global Crop Diversity Trust (better known as Crop Trust). As World Coffee Research Executive Director Tim Schilling puts it, “We have to step up and take control of the genetic resources that dictate the limits and open the possibilities for the future of our industry.”

It’s not just the coffee plant that could suffer if the plants were to perish, around the world some 125 million people in over 70 countries depend on coffee for their livelihoods.

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