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Coffee Killer

For many around the world, coffee is an instrumental part of their day. Major companies like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts rely heavily on coffee revenue. In this article, William Foreman outlines the work of John Vandameer and his research partner Ivette Perfecto, which significantly impacts the coffee market. Their research is on the fungus la roya which attacks coffee plants. By releasing spores, la roya is able to spread quickly and infect other crops. The shade coffee farm that they have been studying from is called Finca Irlanda, and they have been numbering the leaves on coffee trees to track the disease. From this information, they will be able to create a mathematical model that will analyze the network of the fungus and track how it moves from leaf to leaf.

Throughout this article, many analyses of networks come to mind. The most blatant connection is of disease networks between plants and farms. Each plant or farm could be a node with edges representing the spread of la roya. Another connection can be made through analyzing the effects that la roya would have to global economies and the coffee market in Central America. The piece references the switch in Sri Lanka from coffee to tea because of the fungus wiping out the crop and subsequently the coffee economy in the country. If this fungus were to affect Central America as harshly as it did to Sri Lanka, coffee prices would rise globally since Central America produces one-fifth of the world’s supply of arabica, the favored Starbucks coffee bean. ¬†Essentially, the global economy for coffee is another network. Each node would be a company or factory or worker that is in the coffee industry with each edge representing some sort of business relationship.

From this, the significance of such research becomes clear because of the need for a sustainable solution to combat the fungus. With such a huge impact that the disease can make through its global network, it is evident that the work’s significance goes beyond commercial leisure, considering the fact that it affects people’s livelihoods. In conclusion, Vandameer and Perfecto are shining a light on an important crop-infecting fungus that is sure to impact the lives of many.



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