Kenyan tea is made with heat and water: How will climate change influence its yield?

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Publication Details

Output type: Journal article

UM6P affiliated Publication?: No

Author list: Rigden A.J., Ongoma V., Huybers P.

Publication year: 2020

Journal: Environmental Research Letters (1748-9318)

Volume number: 15

Issue number: 4

ISSN: 1748-9318

eISSN: 1748-9326


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Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world apart from water. Climate change is anticipated to affect the tea industry, but quantified large-scale predictions of how temperature and water availability drive tea production is lacking in many regions. Here, we use satellite-derived observations to characterize the response of tea yield to water and heat stress from 2008 to 2016 across Kenya, the third largest producer of tea. We find that solar-induced fluorescence captures the interannual variability in tea yield remarkably well (Pearson's correlation coefficient, r = 0.93), and that these variations are largely driven by the daily dynamics of soil moisture and temperature. Considering rising temperature in isolation suggests that yields in 2040-2070 would decrease by 10% relative to 1990-2020 (ranging between -15% to -4% across 23 models), but most climate models also simulate an increase in soil moisture over this interval that would offset loss, such that yields decrease by only 5% (ranging between -12% to +1%). Our results suggest that adaptation strategies to better conserve soil moisture would help avert damage, but such changes require advanced planning due to the longevity of a tea plant, underscoring the importance of better predicting soil moisture over the coming decades.


agriculture, Climate change, Soil moisture, Tea yield, Water balance


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Last updated on 2021-25-11 at 23:20