Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/1/2007
Publication Date: 1/18/2008
Citation: Guiltinan, M.J., Verica, J., Zhang, D., Figueira, A. 2008. Genomics of Theobroma cacao, “the Food of the Gods”. In: Moore, P.H. & Ming, R. editors Genomics of Tropical Crop Plants. 1st edition. New York, NY: Springer. p. 145-170.
Interpretive Summary: Cacao is an important tropical crop because it is the source of cocoa butter and powder for the confectionery industry. Genetic resources of cacao are important for breeding new cacao varieties and thus are of great importance for sustainable cacao production. Research tools for molecular markers and genomics are essential for assessing diversity in cacao genetic resources and improving the efficiency in conservation and use of these cocoa genetic resources. In this paper, we reviewed recent progress in the development of genomics tools for cacao. These include the use of molecular marker technology to assist germplasm management, understand genetic basis of disease resistance and yield component, and dissecting the evolutionary relatedness of cacao with other important crops and model plant systems. We also reviewed the future prospects for the contribution of cacao genomics to improvement of this crop for sustainable cacao production and as a tool for poverty alleviation and environmental stabilization are discussed. This information will contribute to a more efficient management of cocoa germplasm and will improve the breeding of better cocoa varieties. These results will be useful to plant breeders, germplasm curators and cocoa farmers and will benefit chocolate consumers.
Technical Abstract: Theobroma cacao, the chocolate tree, is an important tropical tree-crop that provides sustainable economic and environmental benefits to some of the poorest and most ecologically sensitive areas of the world. Recent progress in the development of genomics tools for cacao is reviewed. These include a reference molecular genetic map, simple sequence repeats and other molecular markers, two germplasm databases with microsatellite DNA fingerprints and other molecular data, many quantitative trait loci mapping projects which have identified disease resistance and yield component loci, several expressed sequence tag resources, a cacao microarray, bacterial artificial chromosome libraries, and a genetic transformation system. The evolutionary relatedness of cacao with other important crops and model plant systems positions cacao genomics to play a significant role in translational plant genomics. The future prospects for the contribution of cacao genomics to improvement of this crop for sustainable cacao production and as a tool for poverty alleviation and environmental stabilization are discussed.