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The potential of industry through coffee’s chromosome mutations

The potential of industry through coffee's chromosome mutations Beverage, climate change, coffee, Flavours and colours, food tech, Mutation, Processing and Packaging, Science, Transparency and supply chain Food and Beverage Business

When indulging in arabica coffee sourced from various regions worldwide and experiencing the distinct differences in taste, it may be tempting to attribute these variations to the genetic makeup of the beans. However, a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications challenges this notion, revealing that while gene frequency does play a role in taste, it is actually chromosomal mutations that are responsible for the differences in gene frequency.

Arabica coffee, unlike robusta, possesses more than two copies of each chromosome, a phenomenon known as polyploidy. This genetic characteristic makes it challenging for arabica to crossbreed with other species, resulting in mutations as the primary source of variation among different varieties of arabica beans. These mutations have occurred steadily since arabica was created approximately 50,000 years ago through the fusion of Coffea canephora (robusta) and Coffea eugenioides.

Examining various arabica varieties, researchers have identified not only taste variations but also differences in functions such as disease resistance. The study revealed chromosomal rearrangements, additional copies of chromosomes, missing chromosome fragments, and even entirely absent chromosomes in certain arabica varieties, such as the Bourbon arabica.

These discoveries hold significant implications for the food and beverage industry, offering potential benefits to producers such as the ability to select for traits like low caffeine content or resistance to diseases like coffee rust. By understanding the genome and leveraging chromosomal aberrations, coffee breeders could develop improved varieties with desirable characteristics.

While the research may open up new avenues for coffee production, industry stakeholders like Nestlé caution that it is still too early to predict the practical impact of these findings. Further research is needed to fully grasp how chromosomal rearrangements influence flavor profiles and cultivate arabica beans effectively.

Enhancing our understanding of the genetic diversity in arabica coffee through chromosomal analysis has the potential to revolutionize the industry. By leveraging these insights, producers can potentially breed new varieties with enhanced traits and sustainable characteristics while meeting consumer demands for unique and high-quality coffee products.

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