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Energy flows in the coffee plantations of Costa Rica: from traditional to modern systems (1935–2010)

Infante-Amate, Juan, Picado, Wilson
Regional environmental change 2018 v.18 no.4 pp. 1059-1071
agroecosystems, biomass, crop management, energy efficiency, growers, labor productivity, new products, plantations, tropical agriculture, Costa Rica
This article addresses energy flows in the coffee agro-ecosystems of Costa Rica within the context of the socio-ecological transition, between 1935 and 2010, accounting for the shift from traditional to modern tropical agriculture. Estimating indicators of energy efficiency in crop management makes it possible to analyze the changing productive rationality of growers by studying end uses of all biomass appropriated from coffee agro-ecosystems. Coffee land and labor productivity, as expected, multiplied (by factors of 2.01 and 1.56, respectively). However, considering total biomass produced in coffee agro-ecosystems, productivity did not display such a significant increase. In contrast, all other energy efficiency indicators declined. Final energy return on investment (FEROI) fell from 1.02 in 1935 to 0.51 in 2005. External final EROI fell even farther, from 18.90 down to 1.86. The socio-ecological transition brought about the loss of multifunctionality in the final use of products derived from coffee agro-ecosystems, as new products replaced traditional ones.