The current pool of Arabica varieties used around the world are not ready to tolerate new disease and insect pressures as well as heat or other environmental threats posed by climate change. The root problem is a narrow genetic base. World Coffee Research scientists know that the total amount of genetic diversity in the varieties used today represent only 10% of what exists in the world Arabica collections, like the ones in CATIE and CENICAFE. This low or narrow genetic diversity is a high risk factor that jeopardizes the sustainability in the supplies of quality coffees.
Narrow genetic diversity was responsible for the potato famine in Ireland, the French grape crisis, the Mexican agave disaster, and many other crop epidemics. With extreme climate events occurring at greater frequency, the probability that more crises will occur in coffee is higher. In order to reduce this risk, World Coffee Research is ‘leapfrogging’ over decades of expensive and painstaking research by using advanced technologies to create ‘super-varieties’ capable of high quality and productivity under a broad range of adverse environments.
These populations will be made available to national breeding programs for the rapid development of country-specific varieties with heat tolerance, high productivity, high cup quality and tolerance to other biologic pressures. The pre-breeding populations will expedite the variety development in national programs by 5–10 years so that impact can be made rapidly across a host of different producing countries.
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