Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Finest Chocolate from Cacao Tree

“The production of high quality chocolate, and the farmers who grow cacao tree, will benefit from the recent sequencing and assembly of the chocolate tree genome”, according to an international team led by Claire Lanaud of CIRAD, France, with Mark Guiltinan of Penn State, and including scientists from 18 other institutions.

The team sequenced the DNA of a variety of Theobroma cacao, considered to produce the world's finest chocolate. Many growers prefer to grow hybrid cacao trees that produce chocolate of lower quality but are more resistant to disease.

"Fine cocoa production is estimated to be less than 5 percent of the world cocoa production because of low productivity and disease susceptibility," said Guiltinan, professor of plant molecular biology.

The trees are also seen as an environmentally beneficial crop because they grow best under forest shade, allowing for land rehabilitation and enriched biodiversity.

The team's work identified a variety of gene families that may have future impact on improving cacao trees and fruit either by enhancing their attributes or providing protection from fungal diseases and insects that effect cacao trees.

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