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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MOLECULAR CHARACTERIZATION AND DIVERSITY ASSESSMENT OF COCOA GERMPLASM IN THE AMERICAS

Location: Sustainable Perennial Crops

Project Number: 1245-21000-264-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 26, 2008
End Date: Mar 13, 2013

Objective:
The goal of this project is to develop and implement scientific approaches for managing and facilitating the use of cacao germplasm. Over the next 5 years we will focus on the following objectives: Objective 1: Rationalize ex situ cacao collections in international and non-U.S. national genebanks. Sub-objective 1.A. Maximize diversity coverage and reduce mislabeling and redundancy in international and non-U.S. national collections. Sub-objective 1.B. Improve the integration and expand the scope of phenotype, pedigree, and molecular data in International Cacao Databases. This objective will assure that germplasm collections are representative of the diversity available and that breeders are using correctly labeled and described breeding parents. Objective 2: Develop complementary conservation methods, including in situ and on-farm conservation methods that can improve cacao productivity while maintaining or enhancing genetic diversity. This will be carried out with partners in developing country centers of diversity. Objective 3: Characterize and evaluate targeted economic/agronomic traits of cacao and identify likely sources of new genes for breeders. This will serve as a guide to breeders as to what germplasm may contain the traits in which they are interested.

Approach:
The project will continue to genotype cacao samples from ex situ collections from various cocoa producing countries in Latin America. These genotypes developed with a standard set of 15 SSR markers will continue to be used to fingerprint the cacao collections from Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and several small collections in Central America and the Caribbean, following our established protocol of DNA extraction, SSR analysis and allele sizing. The generated multi-locus SSR data, together with those previously obtained from the two International genebanks and other non-U.S. national collections will be compiled and used for the identification of duplicates within and among collections. After the elimination of mislabeled and duplicate accessions, summary statistics for measuring genetic diversity will be conducted to analyze the geographical distribution of cacao germplasm and identify “hotspots” and geographical areas that have complementary levels of diversity. A minimum of two gap-collecting expeditions will be carried out in areas lacking representation in the ex situ collections. The information on genetic identities obtained in Sub-objective 1.A will serve as the foundation for correcting the existing nomenclatures in the two international databases, as well as the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre, Reading (ICQC, R), which serves as the source for the dissemination of disease-free (post-quarantine) accessions for the global cacao community. Comparison of on-farm diversity with the natural populations in the Peruvian Amazon will be implemented using the populations previous collected from Ucayali, Huallaga, and Mararon River valleys to develop complementary conservation methods, including on-farm conservation methods. Finally phenotypic and genetic analyses will be conducted to characterize and evaluate targeted economic/agronomic traits of cacao and identify likely sources of new genes for breeders.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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