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Brazil Maps Arabica Coffee Genome To Improve Quality

Reuters - 20-Apr-2004 - Peter Blackburn
(c) 2004 Reuters Limited

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, April 20 (Reuters) - Brazilian scientists finished mapping the arabica coffee genome with the aim of raising the tree's resistance to disease and harsh weather and improving quality, a research leader said on Tuesday.

A coffee genome is made up of 11 chromosomes which are packed with genes and form a blueprint for the beverage's taste, texture, flavor and other qualities.

During the past two years, scientists from Brazil, the world's biggest coffee grower and exporter, produced 200,000 genetic sequences from which 35,000 genes were identified. Many of the genes recur in roots, branches and leaves of coffee trees.

"The object is to improve coffee quality and yields by protecting trees from disease and weather," project coordinator Alan Carvalho Andrade of the government's Agricultural Research Agency (Embrapa) told Reuters.

"We can now start with coffee institutions, the functional phase which is about how to use the data bank on the 35,000 genes to improve coffee quality," he added.

Andrade said it was uncertain how long it would take to start commercial production of improved coffee varieties.

Researchers have estimated that cost savings of between 50 and 100 percent could be made on herbicides, pesticides and other crop chemicals, and that
productivity could be raised by between 30 and 50 percent.

Sao Paulo's research foundation (Fapesp) helped coordinate the coffee genome project which cost 6 million reais (US$2.05 million) and was funded by the National Coffee Development Fund (Funcafe).