All the Tea in China
How we applied advanced software to unravel the impact of climate changes on the complex chemistry of an ancient crop.
The primary motivation of our group is to explore the complex interactions that occur between human and natural systems – including environmental contamination, pesticides and petroleum products. Recently, we have used tea as a model system to learn how small and extreme changes in climate affect plant chemistry. Studies to date have mainly focused on yield, with very limited attention given to impact of climate variability on flavor, aroma and functional quality. Tea is an ideal crop system for climate or variability studies since it’s harvested several times throughout the year. Tea is also an economically significant crop, with 6 million tons produced in 2017 – worth $39 billion.
How and why may tea quality become vulnerable to changing climate conditions? And what would be the impact on consumer purchasing decisions, markets, farmer livelihoods, ecological knowledge and management practices? The objective of our research team – which consists of graduate students, postdocs, and faculty from Tufts University, Montana State University and University of Florida – is to provide quantitative data to answer these questions.
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