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International Cocoa Collection (IC3)

A global treasure under the aegis of CATIE

Since the 1940s, CATIE has preserved in perpetuity its cocoa germplasm collection (IC3), a significant representation of the broad genetic diversity that the species possesses in tropical America. In addition to conservation, the collection’s fundamental goal is to provide plant material for genetic enhancement studies of various kinds as well as propagation material for the breeding programs and the establishment of commercial plantations in different countries. The CATIE collection is a potential source of clones with remarkable features, such as resistance to pests and diseases, high polyphenol contents, resistance to extreme conditions, short stature, etc. Consequently, their conservation is a priority for solving many of the present and future problems that affect these crops.

Since 1978, the IC3 has held the rank of international collection awarded by the IBPGR (now Bioversity) and since 2005 it has been under the auspices of the FAO and the umbrella of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). This places it as the first field collection in the world in the public domain.

Origin: The International Cocoa Collection of CATIE (IC3) was initiated in Turrialba, Costa Rica in 1944 as part of the strategy of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to promote the distribution and exchange of germplasm for valuable tropical crops.

Location: All species of Theobroma and Herrania are recalcitrant, so they can only be maintained in field collections. IC3 was originally established in the CATIE sector known as Cabiria. In 2005, two replications of it were begun on La Montaña farm in Turrialba at 602 meters above sea level and on the La Lola farm at 28 Millas from Limon at 40 masl, both belonging to CATIE. This way the collection is backed up at three different sites, which is a unique feature of this collection.

Composition: IC3 contains nearly 1,200 clones of cacao (Theobroma cacao), mainly from tropical America, which is the center of origin and diversity of this species, particularly in the upper reaches of the Amazon basin. The collection also includes clones obtained in Africa, Asia and Oceania and other cultivated species of the genus Theobroma such as T. bicolor (pataste) and T. grandiflorum (cupuaçu), or wild species such as T. angustifolium, T. mammosum, T. microcarpum, T. subincanum, T. simiarum and T. speciosum. The genus Herrania, which is the genus most closely related genetically to Theobroma, is represented by seven species: H. albiflora, H. baloensis, H. cuatrecasana, H. nycterodendron, H. nítida, H. purpure and H. umbratica. The collection is enriched annually by introducing clones from the quarantine station at the University of Reading in England and from other reliable sources.

With the collaboration of the Department of Agriculture of the United States (USDA-ARS), every tree of the collection is being confirmed using DNA techniques. In this way it aims to identify materials that are duplicates, mixed, or that do not correspond to the original type.