“The team’s work identified a variety of gene families that may have future impact on improving cacao trees and fruit either by enhancing their attributes or providing protection from fungal diseases and insects that effect cacao trees.
‘Our analysis of the Criollo genome has uncovered the genetic basis of pathways leading to the most important quality traits of chocolate — oil, flavonoid and terpene biosynthesis,” said Siela Maximova, associate professor of horticulture, Penn State, and a member of the research team. “It has also led to the discovery of hundreds of genes potentially involved in pathogen resistance, all of which can be used to accelerate the development of elite varieties of cacao in the future.’ ”
A full understanding of the genetic potential of an organism allows improved management and use of it’s genetic resources. Breeders may soon be able to use this information to increase the productivity of cacao trees and develop more sustainable growing methods. As understory trees that grow best in a shaded environment, cacao has the potential to be an environmentally friendly crop. If grown properly, it would allow regeneration of rain forests that have been lost.