Submitted to: Environmental and Economic Impact of Brazilian Land Conversion
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: August 15, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
The United States Department of Agriculture has initiated a multi disciplinary cooperative program with several cocoa producing countries aimed at addressing critical issues relating to the production of chocolate from Theobroma cacao. This commodity has come under significant disease pressure within the last 15 years due to two major fungal diseases that have devastated the crop in Brazil, and a third disease that threaten to compound the problem even further. The USDA program focuses on close cooperation with industry partners and producing countries like Brazil to attack the problem with several different areas of research. These research areas include, 1) the establishment of a global cacao molecular identification center in Beltsville, MD, to use internationally standardized molecular probes for DNA fingerprinting of all major germplasm collections of T. cacao in the Americas and related regions, 2) the establishment of a core USDA germplasm center in Puerto Rico as a repository for major accessions of T. cacao, 3) the establishment of a quarantine center in Miami, FL, to assist in exchange of elite disease resistant germplasm, 4) an in-depth molecular program of gene discovery, genetic mapping, and examination of population genetics of T. cacao, 5) investigations into the use of biocontrol agents as a part of an Integrated Pest Management strategy, against the fungal pathogens causing diseases of T. cacao, and 6) investigations into the use of natural defense mechanisms within T. cacao initiated by application of low-cost elicitors. Through these cooperative interactions, the USDA plans to work with interested parties to improve the practical economic realities of growing chocolate trees in tropical regions.