WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture, with the help of various partners, has sequenced the genome of the cacao tree in an effort to sustain the supply of high-quality cocoa to the chocolate industry and product small farmers around the world.
The effort is a partnership between the U.S.D.A.’s Agricultural Research Service, Mars, Inc., scientists at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, and researchers from the Clemson University Genomics Institute, the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology; Washington State University and more.
“Because of the talent and dedication brought together by this unique partnership, researchers and plant breeders will be able to accelerate the genetic improvement of the cacao crop now cultivated in tropical regions around the world,” said Edward B. Knipling, administrator of the A.R.S. “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.”
This 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.