Widely distributed variation in tolerance to Phytophthora palmivora in four genetic groups of cacao

Andrew S. Fister, Mariela E. Leandro-Muñoz, Dapeng Zhang, James H. Marden, Peter Tiffin, Claude dePamphilis, Siela Maximova, Mark J. Guiltinan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The tropical tree Theobroma cacao is the source of chocolate, and its seeds are a major export from many producing countries in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Every year, 30–40% of pre-harvest yield is lost due to disease damage. Host plant resistance is the most efficient and environmentally friendly approach for disease management. Historically, cacao germplasm resources have been underutilized in efforts to introduce novel sources of disease tolerance into breeding programs. Maintenance of cacao germplasm also relies on clonally propagated live collections, as cacao seeds do not exhibit dormancy and cannot be stored for more than a few weeks. In this study, we use a 90 SNP array to verify genetic identity of a set of clones in the International Cocoa Collection at CATIE, Costa Rica, and assign the clones into known genetic groups. We also used a detached leaf inoculation technique to measure the susceptibility of 60 genotypes to Phytophthora palmivora, a major cacao pathogen with global importance. We identified 24 genotypes with disease tolerance statistically similar to a standard tolerant variety (SCA6) and another 24 which performed similarly to a standard susceptible variety (ICS1). Our results indicate that each of the four included genetic groups show variability for quantitative resistance to P. palmivora. These results provide a foundation for future genomic and transcriptomic analysis of disease tolerance and susceptibility in the field at CATIE and provide guidelines for breeders searching for novel sources of tolerance that can be introduced into breeding programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
JournalTree Genetics and Genomes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Horticulture


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