A global team of researchers have sequenced the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of the Robusta coffee bean that could lead to future developments to improve the bean’s yield, quality and resistance to disease and drought, and to increase farmer incomes.
The study was led by the French Institute of Research for Development, the French National Sequencing Centre and the University of Buffalo. Nestlé, through its scientists at the Nestlé Research and Development Center in Tours, France, was the only private organisation to contribute to the study.
In their work, the researchers found that the sequences and positions of the genes in Coffea canephora, the coffee plant commonly referred to as Robusta, evolved independently from genes with similar functions in tea and cocoa, which also make caffeine.
By looking at the relationship between the genome structure of Robusta and other species like tea and cocoa, researchers were able to learn about coffee’s independent pathway in evolution.
Robusta has a stronger and harsher flavour profile compared with the smoother and richer one of the other major coffee bean, Arabica.
The coffee genome work is part of Nestlé’s broader research programme in plant science that will help the company ensure a sustainable supply of high quality raw materials, including cocoa and coffee.
The study’s full findings were published in the journal Science on September 5, 2014.