The benefits of shade grown coffee and the science behind it

Benefits of shade grown coffee

If you care for species diversity and habitat, soil conservation, pest control and pollination or water, carbon storage and climate change, the case for coffee grown in the shade is clear.

The gold standard for shade grown coffee is the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Bird Friendly certification. Learn about the rigorous criteria here.

Read about the “Ecological Benefits of Shade-grown Coffee” on the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s website or dive directly into the fascinating research papers below.

Here are a couple of interesting findings:

  • Coffee plantations in southern Mexico (Chiapas) offer habitat for 180 species of birds (46 of them migratory), a richness rivaled only by natural forest habitats in the region (Greenberg et al. 1997).
  • Bird Friendly habitats hosted significantly higher small mammal species density than the forest, shade and sun coffee habitats, as well as higher mean species density than both shade and sun coffee (Caudill 2016).
  • Biological control by birds acting as predators on the coffee berryborer in Jamaica was calculated to be worth $75/hectare in 2005, averaging $1,004 per farm studied. This equals approximately 30 percent of the per capita gross national income for that time (Kellerman et al, 2008).
  • Moderate levels of shade can hinder some fungal diseases, such as the coffee leaf rust, which can impact coffee foliage and yields (Beer as cited in Jha et al. 2011).
  • Shade-grown coffee systems in Indonesia have soil carbon stocks in the upper 30-centimeter soil layer that are equal to 60 percent of those found in primary forest there, and they show 58 percent more total carbon stock (soil and biomass) than sun coffee (Noordwijk et al.).
  • Open-sun coffee lost more than 2.5 times the soil lost by shade-grown coffee on the same hillsides (Rice, 1990).

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