Cacao’s Genetic Diversity

Martin Gilmour, Cocoa Sustainability Research Director of Mars Chocolate, co-authored an Executive Perspective at Thomson Reuters with Stephan Weise, Deputy Director General Research of Bioversity International about the importance of genetic diversity in cocoa as a part of cocoa sustainability.  The article discusses why the genetic diversity of cacao is essential part of farmer productivity:

90% of the global supply of cocoa comes from 5 million to 6 million smallholder farmers across tropical Africa, Asia and Latin America. And keeping pace with growing global demand is proving no easy task.  Many farmers have limited access to improved planting material, resulting in their use of materials that are low-yielding or susceptible to loss from pests and diseases and from extreme weather events and drought. Losses from pests and diseases alone are estimated to be as high as 30%-40% of global annual production.  A solution to these challenges must be holistic, with a focus on putting farmers first – making sure they have the kind of training they need to increase their yields and that they have access to good planting material to help them be more productive.  Increased yields and productivity will improve farmer income and quality of life, which will help to ensure cocoa’s sustainability for future generations.

For cocoa farmers to have access to a diversity of improved planting materials, the genetic diversity needs to be available to researchers engaged in breeding programmes to produce trees that can resist evolving pests and diseases, tolerate droughts and other environmental stresses and produce higher yields of good quality cocoa.  This diversity provides farmers with the options and “insurance policy” they need to face the production challenges of tomorrow.

Read more at Executive Perspective: Taste of what’s to come: cocoa diversity for 50 million people globally.  The article can also be found at the Web site.

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