The Americas Cocoa Breeders Working Group

Placing new and improved varieties in the hands of the cocoa farmers of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) and Costa Rica's Tropical Agricultural Re search & Higher Education Center (CATIE) announce the creation of the Americas Cacao Breeders Working Group. This group, the first of its kind in the Americas, was established during a meeting at CATIE in Turrialba, Costa Rica, October 29 - 31, 2014. The Working Group, also supported by Bioversity International and INGENIC, will bring together cacao breeders, scientists in related disciplines, and industry members to collaborate and coordinate on cocoa breeding and management of germplasm resources.

This year CATIE is also celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of International Cacao Collection in Turrialba, Costa Rica in 1944. This anniversary will celebrate the collection's immense value to the world including conservation and providing plant material for genetic enhancement studies, as well as providing propagation material for the breeding programs and the establishment of commercial plantations in different countries. This cocoa germplasm collection, which contains nearly 1,200 clones of cacao, is a significant representation of the broad genetic diversity that the species possesses in tropical America. It also includes clones obtained in Africa, Asia and Oceania.

The International Cocoa Collection at CATIE (IC3)

The International Cocoa Collection at CATIE (IC3)

"WCF is pleased to support the establishment of the Americas Cacao Breeders Group and the International Cacao Collection," said Bill Guyton, WCF President. "With threats to cocoa including pests, disease and climate change, the Collection is an important resource for the global cocoa community to conserve the unique genetic makeup of the cocoa plant."

The Americas currently produce approximately 13% of the world's cacao, however, average productivity remains low (approximately 300 - 500 kg/ha) due to the effects of devastating diseases and limited incorporation of good agricultural practices. The Group will take advantage of successful models developed in Africa and Asia, which are supported by WCF, and will exchange information on progress obtained by cacao breeders in the Americas, discuss cacao germplasm exchange in the Americas, and facilitate dialogue between cacao breeders and the private sector.

"The future of chocolate is threatened by the increasing effect of diseases and weather changes," said Wilbert Phillips, Curator of the International Cacao Genebank at CATIE. "However, the genetic richness of this tropical American species could radically change the prognoses, serving as the basis for creating varieties that diminish the risks as it has been demonstrating in Central America, where the species was domesticated a long time ago."

world cocoa foundation usda-ars catie