1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The objective is to identify important fine flavored cacao varieties at the molecular level so that these and related types can be preserved and utilized. The Cooperator is interested in the conservation of fine flavored cacao types that are the basis for the growth of their industry. Various members of the association have the expertise to identify, evaluate and locate fine flavored cacao type from around the world.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
The Cooperator and its members will identify fine flavored cacao types from around the world and will work with ARS and in-country collaborators/growers to acquire leaf samples for DNA testing. ARS will determine the molecular identification of these varieties so that each type will have a genetic ID that can be used as a reference for that type. The DNA analysis protocols and ID references will be established by ARS and made available to the Cooperator so that other sources of DNA analysis can be acquired for routine analysis. All cacao material and genetic ID data will be managed through Material Transfer Agreements and on completion will be transferred to the International databases along with any additional information that is known about these fine flavored cacao varieties. This information will be used by both ARS and the Cooperator to jointly develop conservation and utilization systems that preserve the unique flavor traits of these varieties. The Cooperator will work with producers and producing countries to develop long-term conservation schemes and increase the production of these unique cacao types though on-farm conservation.
In 2013, scientists at Beltsville, MD worked with members of the Fine Chocolate Industry Assoc. (FCIA) to develop the Heirloom cacao preservation initiative. This initiative focuses on the identification, preservation and use of fine flavored cacao types. Heirloom cacao types found to have superior flavor traits will be analyzed genetically to develop a unique flavor/genetic profile, which can then be used to promote the conservation and utilization of this particular type of cacao by the chocolate industry. Additonally, this collaboration looked at on-farm diversity analysis in 2013 which included three groups of farmer varieties from Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. The samples were collected by FICA members and analyzed in Beltsville using DNA markers. Genetic identities of these farmer varieties were verified using DNA fingerprints and their relationships with the reference cacao germplasm groups were established.