|Schnell Ii, Raymond|
Submitted to: Proceedings of ONDCP International Technology Symposium
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: December 1, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Living germplasm collections of Theobroma cacao, the chocolate tree, genotypes are maintained in several international collections scattered throughout Central and South America and Caribbean Islands. The United States Department of Agriculture has begun a program to identify and describe the genetic diversity of these collections. They plan to be able to benefit from these collections more effectively in breeding programs, by using state of the art molecular fingerprinting techniques. Molecular analysis techniques were performed on T. cacao germplasm to evaluate the utility of these procedures for DNA fingerprinting of this tree crop. Using these procedures, it was found that DNA fragment patterns were reproducible and consistent within a common varietal genotype, while differentiating separate genotypes. Based on this study, individual plants can be obtained and screened for disease resistance to identify plants that can survive disease pressure in South America. These chocolate plants can then be used as an alternative cash crop to replace opium poppy and coca in narcotic producing countries.
Technical Abstract: The United States Department of Agriculture has developed a multifaceted program within the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to provide research toward the development of alternative cash crops in narcotics producing countries. The goal of the research is to identify and solve real world problems which interfere with the development of alternative cash crops, chocolate (cacao) and coffee, in lieu of narcotic crop production. The ARS program is divided into several parts that encompass a molecular genomics research effort for the enhancement of plant germplasm, as well as a plant disease program. This program focuses on procedures for overcoming pest and disease problems in these cash crops. More than $4,000,000 of permanent federal funding has been diverted into this effort to support scientists at several locations both in the United States and in producing countries. State of the art molecular tools and procedures are being employed to identify and map the genetic basis of plant disease resistance in cacao. These include DNA fingerprinting of the available cacao germplasm collections in producing countries and detailed studies on gene expression. Innovative bio control efforts are also underway to reduce disease pressure on these cash crops using inexpensive technologies which pose no threat to other agricultural systems. Collaborative agreements between the USDA and research organizations, within producing countries, are the keys to successful incorporation of these technologies.