Project proposal details

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Project title
Climate change and coffee: are rising temperatures increasing the severity of fungal disease on coffee in east and central Africa?
Contact name
Tim Barraclough
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
Project description
Food security is an important challenge for human populations worldwide. Nearly 50% of crop yields globally are lost to pests and diseases, and reducing these losses is essential for meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.” Fusarium is a highly diverse clade of fungi associated with 80% of all crops. Specifically, this MSc project will look at sustainable disease management for Fusarium xylarioides, which causes a devastating wilt disease to Africa’s two most valuable coffee cash crop species.

We know that climate change will affect climatic suitability for coffee within its current regions of production in east and central Africa1. Increases in temperature and changes in precipitation patterns will decrease yield, reduce quality and increase disease pressure2. This project will be in collaboration with CABI Egham, a partner not-for-profit organisation working on food security and pest management. It will examine historic climatic changes and use these to test differences in pathogenicity in different fungal strains. The first part of this project will involve using GIS and Rstudio to analyse historic climatic changes in coffee-growing regions, with the second part using this information to design and set up in vitro fungal growth assays, with the possibility of temperature-driven infection assays in plants.


Data science: GIS, Rstudio programming

Mycology: fungal growth assays, pathogenicity assays

NB depending on COVID-19 restrictions, the lab-based component could be replaced by further GIS and/ or genomic analyses with a bioinformatics component instead.

1. Davis, A. P. et al. (2012) ‘The Impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Arabica Coffee (Coffea arabica): Predicting Future Trends and Identifying Priorities’, PLoS ONE, 7(11), pp. 10–14. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047981.

2. Ovalle-Rivera, O. et al. (2015) ‘Projected shifts in Coffea arabica suitability among major global producing regions due to climate change’, PLoS ONE, 10(4), pp. 1–13. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124155.

Additional requirements
Can be learned on the project
Available support
Selection and eligibility
Could also be completed in South Kensington
Date uploaded