For most, the cacao plant conjures up the world of chocolate. For many small farmers worldwide (over 6.5 million) the cacao plant is their livelihood.
New cacao plant DNA sequence research will eliminate much of the guess work of traditional cacao plant crop cultivation.
Chocolate farmers will have better ability to plant more robust, higher yielding and drought and disease-resistant trees. This in turn will mean better yields and so higher income for farmers.
The major funder of the research, which involved millions of dollars, was Mars Inc – famous for the MARS bar brand and other chocolate products. The company is a global leader in cocoa science and has committed to ensuring the information is publicly available as opposed to putting a patent on it.
Other key players in the research include the US Department of Agriculture and IBM who have expertise in what is known as computational biology.
Cacao joins more than 180 life forms where scientists have now completed the genetic sequence. These include rice, yeast, grapes, the honeybee, chimpanzees, dogs, modern humans and also microbes such as the malaria parasite.