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October 3rd, 2017 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

Few cacao varieties are widely cultivated, and that’s a problem: Like many other crops, cacao is under constant threat from diseases and environmental challenges exacerbated by our tendency to grow only a few varieties with similar or identical genetic traits and defects.

In the early 1980s, Dr. Phillips-Mora worked to identify the most naturally tolerant and productive cacao trees, then painstakingly hybridized the candidates to create novel varieties.

In terms of disease resistance and yield, the differences were astonishing. Dr. Phillips-Mora’s six hybrids produce on average about three times more cacao than standard varieties; under ideal conditions, the most prolific hybrids can produce six times more cacao.

After an 11-year trial, a hybrid called C.A.T.I.E.-R6 experienced a 5 percent frosty pod rot infection rate, compared to 75 percent infection for a control variety….Trees that buck this trend could make the family business look more enticing to the next generation of cacao growers. Read more