Arabica coffee genome sequence is in the public domain, in an effort to address climate change

New genetic information could strengthen coffee sector, responsible for over 14 million jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean

ARMENIA, Colombia – The complete sequence of the 22 coffee chromosomes was announced today, in an effort to accelerate the process of selecting plant varieties that tackle both local climatic changes and the specific needs of coffee growers. This public domain information was presented to delegates from various coffee producing countries in the framework of the second regional workshop on climate change and coffee farmingin the Conference of the Association for Science and Information on Coffee.

This advanced and highly detailed data was generated using the latest sequencing technology in an effort to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of the production of high quality coffee in the global market. The genetic information of the Coffea arabica and Coffea eugenioides species contains the location and characterization of more than 30,000 genes responsible for all aspects of the plant, and is valuable information for coffee breeders. These results add to the recent announcement of the genome sequencing of the robusta coffee species Coffea canephora, conducted by a consortium led by French researchers.

Recent weather patterns are responsible for changes in coffee production, with significant impactson production, incidence of pests and diseases, and risks to the sustainability of coffee ecosystems. For example, the coffee leaf rust fungus has had devastating effects in Latin America. During the 2012-13 harvest, over 50 percent of the Central American coffee farm area was affected by the fungus and more than 350,000 people lost their jobs.

Quality coffee farming requires long-term solutions that enable producers to adapt to new conditions and reduce the uncertainty that climate can have on production. Among the options for adaptation is the adoption of new varieties. Currently, the complete breeding cycle to develop new varieties can take over twelve years. However, both the time and costs of the breeding process could be reduced given this new genomic information.

The future of the coffee industry will depend on theability of farmers to cope with the continuous climatic, technological and economic changes that are currently taking place. Proper use of advanced technologies in conjunction with other adaptation measureswill allow farmers to continue in the coffee business, thus encouraging the communities’ economic and social development.

This joint effort was an initiative ofthe National Coffee Research Center (CENICAFE) — the R&D arm of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Regional Fund for Agricultural Technology (FONTAGRO).

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