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Conservation through cultivation

Cocao Plant has its genes sequenced




Recently the chocolate market was cornered ( Trader’s Cocoa Binge Wraps Up Chocolate Market ) Good fortune held and the price of cocoa fell instead of rising and leaving us all the mercy of this villain.

And now thanks to the US Dept of Agriculture other threats against cocoa will be easier to solve.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their partners have announced the preliminary release of the sequenced genome of the cacao tree, an achievement that will help sustain the supply of high-quality cocoa to the $17 billion U.S. chocolate industry and protect the livelihoods of small farmers around the world by speeding up development, through traditional breeding techniques, of trees better equipped to resist the droughts, diseases and pests that threaten this vital agricultural crop.

Cocoa comes from the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. The tree seeds are processed into cocoa beans that are the source of cocoa, cocoa butter and chocolate. But fungal diseases can destroy seed-bearing pods and wipe out up to 80 percent of the crop, and cause an estimated $700 million in losses each year.

Worldwide demand for cacao now exceeds production, and hundreds of thousands of small farmers and landholders throughout the tropics depend on cacao for their livelihoods. An estimated 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa.

Scientists worldwide have been searching for years for ways to produce cacao trees that can resist evolving pests and diseases, tolerate droughts and produce higher yields. ARS researchers have been testing new cacao tree varieties developed with genetic markers. But having the genome sequenced is expected to speed up the process of identifying genetic markers for specific genes that confer beneficial traits, enabling breeders to produce superior new lines through traditional breeding techniques.

Sequencing cacao’s genome also will help researchers develop an overall picture of the plant’s genetic makeup, uncover the relationships between genes and traits, and broaden scientific understanding of how the interplay of genetics and the environment determines a plant’s health and viability.

The genome sequence will be released into the public domain, with access to these data online via the Cacao Genome Database (www.cacaogenomedb.org) prior to formal peer-reviewed publication. This release will enable the sequence data to be applied immediately to cacao genetic improvement.

The research team will continue to improve the quality and analyze the properties of the cacao genome sequence in preparation for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. ( Source )