Skip to Content

Theobroma cacao – Wikipedia

« Back to Glossary Index

**1. Botanical Description and Classification:**
– Theobroma cacao is a small evergreen tree in the Malvaceae family.
– Leaves are alternate, entire, unlobed, and 10–50cm long.
– The tree grows 6–12m tall.
– Flowers grow directly on the trunk and branches and are pollinated by tiny flies.
– The fruit is an ovoid cacao pod, ripening yellow to orange, containing 20 to 60 seeds.
– Theobroma cacao belongs to the Malvaceae family and is part of the Theobroma genus.
– Researchers classified cacao into groups like Amelonado, Criollo, and Nacional based on origin.

**2. Cultural and Historical Significance:**
– The name Theobroma means ‘food of the gods’ in Greek, reflecting the divine aspect of the tree.
– Cacao, derived from indigenous Mesoamerican languages, translates to ‘bean of the cocoa-tree.’
– Cacao tree domestication dates back over 5,300 years in South America.
– Cacao beverages have a history dating back to 1900 BC in Mesoamerica.
– European knowledge of chocolate came from the Aztecs, with cacao introduced to Spain in the early 16th century.
– Ancient mixtures of cacao included maize, chili, and honey, used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.

**3. Genetic Research and Conservation Efforts:**
– The cacao genome is diploid with 10 chromosome pairs and 28,798 protein-coding genes.
– CRISPR is used for adjusting cacao DNA for climate resilience.
– A Global Strategy for Conservation and Use of Cacao Genetic Resources exists.
– New cacao varieties are needed due to recalcitrant seeds.
– International Cocoa Quarantine Centre works on preserving genetic diversity.
– Cacao faces pests, diseases, and climate change challenges, requiring preventive measures.

**4. Pests and Diseases Management:**
– Various pests and diseases threaten cacao production.
– Phytopathogens cause significant damage to cacao plantations.
– Streptomyces camerooniansis benefits cacao growth.
– Mass spectrometry helps identify and combat phytopathogens.
– Preventive measures are crucial to avoid damage by Phytophthora megakarya.

**5. Industry, Research, and External Resources:**
– Notable chocolate brands like Valrhona and Hersheys are involved in financing cacao genome research.
– Research publications on Theobroma cacao genome have been featured in Nature Genetics and Nature.
– Resources on cocoa bean production, genetic sequencing, and phytopathogens affecting cacao plants are available.
– Guidelines for safe movement of cacao germplasm and global conservation efforts are crucial.
– External resources like Wikimedia Commons, ICCO, and detailed information on Theobroma species are accessible.

« Back to Glossary Index