The USDA's Agricultural Research Service and candy maker Mars, Inc. will team up with IBM to sequence the genome of the cocoa plant, in an effort to maximize the efficiency of breeding efforts to increase crop yields, crop hardiness, and select for favorable flavor characteristics in the product.
70 percent of the world's cocoa crop is grown in Africa, and cocoa trees that have higher yields, are more resistant to pests, and make better use of available nutrients could be a significant boon to farmers there.
IBM will employ the computational biology expertise of its researchers at the T.J. Watson Research Center, who will use the center's supercomputing resources to sequence the cocoa tree's full genome. The results will be made freely available through the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture. The effort is expected to take five years.