Californian-based researchers discover arabica coffee genome sequence

Researchers at America’s University of California, Davis have released the first public sequence for Coffea Arabica.  The project was funded by Suntory Group, an international food and beverage company based in Japan.  Suntory Group is the parent company for brands such as Cerebos Group, which owns the Australian roastery chain Toby’s Estate.

Posted on Phytozome.net, the public database for comparative plant genomics coordinated by the US Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute, the sequence is available for immediate use by scientists and plant breeders around the world.

“This new genome sequence for Coffea arabica contains information crucial for developing high-quality, disease-resistant coffee varieties that can adapt to the climate changes that are expected to threaten global coffee production in the next 30 years,” said Juan Medrano, a geneticist in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Scientists working on the project partnered with Good Land Organics farm, operating north of Santa Barbara, CA – 19 degrees’ latitude further north than any other commercial coffee plantation and the first coffee farm in the continental US.

Genetic material was collected from different tissues and developmental stages of 23 Geisha coffee trees, an arabica variety that originated in the mountains of western Ethiopia.  Plant material from one of the trees — UCG-17 Geisha — was used for developing the C. arabica genome sequence.

Members of Suntory Group, which provided the financial backing for the project, hope that this discovery can lead to improvements in both the hardiness as well as the flavour of future crops.

“We anticipate that functional analysis of the genes identified by the C. arabica sequencing will lead to development of new, disease-resistant coffee varieties with enhanced flavour and aroma characteristics,” said Yoshikazu Tanaka, Senior General Manager for Suntory Global Innovation Center Limited.

Tanaka commented that the company will continue to fund similar research and development efforts in the future. 
Image © UC Davis, 16 January 2017
Image © UC Davis, 16 January 2017

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