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What genetics research can do for coffee

From the May 2017 issue.

Coffee growing in California and new coffee genomics research support advancements in quality, adaptation to climate and disease control.

Jay Ruskey

Nearly 4000 kilometres north of the equator sits 17-hectare farm Good Land Organics. While agriculture has long been a thriving industry in California, this particular farm is host to a variety of non-native and exotic crops – one of which is coffee.

California-grown coffee is important for two reasons, the first being that it’s never been done before in the 48 contiguous states of the US.

Coffee is a crop traditionally grown in the tropical regions that hug the equator. The “coffee belt” extends about 25 degrees north and south of the equator and is home to prime coffee-growing countries including Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Good Land Organics, on the other hand, is even further north, at a latitude nine degrees from the top of the coffee belt, according to reports from the University of California, Davis.

The second reason is that it has recently provided scientists at UC Davis with accessible, high-quality, disease-free coffee plants for research and testing. In January, the university announced that a team of researchers, led by geneticist Juan Medrano, had successfully sequenced the Coffea arabica genome and made it publically available. This information is crucial for scientists, breeders and industry experts in improving coffee quality, yield, resistance to disease and pests, adaptation to climate and more.

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