11 Awesome Native Animals You Must See In Costa Rica Shade Grown Coffee – It’s For the Birds

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Shade Grown Coffee – It’s For the Birds

Traditionally, almost all coffee was grown in the shade. The coffee plant in its natural state is not very tolerant of direct sunlight; so most coffee plants grow best under the shade of a tree canopy. In an ideal environment, leaves from hanging trees will decompose and compost into the soil, creating a rich, moist soil in which coffee plants thrive. Additionally, the overhead trees provide a home for native birds that eat many insects that would otherwise threaten the coffee plants. Coffee grown in this type of environment would need little or no fertilizer or pesticides to grow; on the contrary, it would grow quite well on its own.

In 1972, scientists developed a new hybrid type of coffee plant. This new plant boasted a much larger production of beans than traditional coffee plants, and in addition, the crop was easier to harvest because the plant remained small in size. Soon, coffee farms around the world were being converted to the new hybrid plant. In turn, coffee farms cut down their native forests to provide direct sunlight for the hybrid coffee plants. Of the approximately 6 million hectares of coffee-producing land worldwide, it is estimated that 60% of this land has been deforested since 1972 as a result of hybrid sun coffee plants.

Deforestation in coffee plantations has created numerous problems. First, the migratory birds that used to live in these trees no longer have a home. It is estimated that the migratory bird population has declined by 20% over the past ten years, mainly due to habitat loss. The lack of trees not only disrupts the bird population. It has a direct impact on the entire ecosystem of an area. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that shaded coffee plantations support a significant number of other animal and insect species. For example, the study noted that one tree on a shady coffee farm in Costa Rica was home to 27 different species of ants and 126 species of beetles. When shade trees disappear, so do other animals and insects, upsetting the fragile balance of the natural ecosystem.

Another problem with solar grown coffee is the large amount of synthetic chemicals required to grow it. Because there are not as many native birds present to eat the insects, pesticides are necessary to keep the insect population down. Sun coffee plants are also treated with chemical fertilizers because there is no tree canopy present to provide organic matter that would naturally enrich the soil. In addition, plantations growing sun coffee must also rely on the use of herbicides to keep down weeds that grow in the increased sunlight (shade coffee plantations do not have as many weed problems because weeds grow well in the shade conditions that favor coffee plants).

All of these chemicals required to cultivate hybrid sun coffee plants create a large amount of runoff, which poisons downstream waterways due to runoff and threatens the health of workers on the coffee plantations. The lack of trees has also created serious soil erosion problems. It has become clear that this type of coffee farming is not sustainable.

Traditional shade growing, however, is a self-sufficient and sustainable agricultural method. It promotes increased biodiversity and requires little or no fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. The Smithsonian Institution’s Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) is working to increase awareness and promotion of shade-grown coffee through a certification process. Look for coffees that carry the SMBC “Bird Friendly” seal of approval, or if you can’t find such coffees, simply look for those that specify shade growing conditions.

The only way to address this problem is through consumer demand. Every purchase of shade grown coffee helps restore natural shade coffee farming methods. Coffee drinkers and bird lovers unite and buy only shade-grown coffee!

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