Accelerated Sequencing of Cocoa Genome Aims to Improve Production

MARS (the candy company), IBM, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture led an international effort to sequence the cocoa genome. The project was completed three years ahead of schedule, due in part to the significant computing power of an IBM Blue Gene computer in the IBM Computational Biology Center. As has been the case with genomes of other agricultural entities (including rice, corn, and grapes), the hope is that the information will help improve cocoa production. Specifically, researchers aim to use the information to give farmers the ability to plant more robust, higher-yielding, drought- and disease-resistant trees. Researchers also anticipate they will be able to determine which breeds of cocoa trees would thrive in specific regions and conditions, such as those where water is scarce.