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Brace yourself: Scientists just sequenced the coffee genome

Published Jan 13th, 2017 8:00PM EST
coffee genome
Image: Frank Jakobi

The Coffea arabica plant provides nearly three quarters of all the coffee consumed worldwide, so scientists are pretty interested in the plant’s genetic makeup. Today, researchers from UC Davis, funded by the international food company Suntory, announced that they had sequenced the genome of the plant and publicly released it for the first time ever.

The genome sequence has been added to the genomics research portal, making it available to other scientists and researchers working with the C. arabica plant. “We hope that the C. arabica sequence will eventually benefit everyone involved with coffee — from coffee farmers, whose livelihoods are threatened by devastating diseases like coffee leaf rust, to coffee processors and consumers around the world,” Juan Medrano, one of the UC Davis researchers, said in the university’s press release.

The genome will also be presented on January 15th at the Animal Genome Conference, held in San Diego. Coffee is one of the many crops that may suffer greatly if global temperatures continue to rise. By releasing the genome sequence, the researchers hope that others working in the field will be able to develop new varieties of the plant that will be inherently disease resistant and produce greater yield even in the face of a changing climate.

This isn’t the first type of coffee to be sequenced, however, and the Coffea canephora genome was already made public back in 2014. However, because C. arabica is cultivated and utilized in much greater quantities, the impact of the public release is much more significant.