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Sequencing of cacao genome will help US chocolate industry, subsistence farmers
Date:9/15/2010

pling, ARS administrator. "This will benefit not only the chocolate industry, but also millions of small farmers who will be able to continue to make their living from cacao."

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.


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Contact: Dennis O'Brien
Dennis.Obrien@ars.usda.gov
301-504-1624
United States Department of Agriculture-Research, Education, and Economics
Source:Eurekalert

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