Concocting a new brew of coffee

Hyderabad, Jan 1 | Updated: Jan 2 2006, 05:30am hrs
The coffee genomics project, initiated by the department of biotechnology, Coffee Board, and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), might soon come up with a new brew. CCMB, which had undertaken DNA fingerprinting of coffee germplasm for conservation and development of molecular map under the National Programme on Coffee Biotechnology, has completed the molecular characterisation of select, elite varieties and has generated molecular markers.

With the completion of the database, CCMB will be partnering with the Italy-based University of Trieste for exchange of database, Lalji Singh, director, CCMB said. The exchange of database will be useful in understanding coffee genomics and the markers can be used for future coffee breeding programmes , Mr Singh said.

According to Ramesh Aggarwal, principal coordinator of the coffee project at CCMB, the molecular IDs and reference data of panels of some important coffee genotypes will serve the purpose for genotype registration, IPR protection and other genetic studies. Besides, these can be used to create new species as success rate through conventional cultivation practices are relatively slow, Mr Aggarwal said.

Meanwhile, CCMB has been identified as a partner in the International Coffee Genomics Network (ICGN), constituted in Paris. The partnership project was formed this year in association with 14 countries. The agenda of the project is to develop databases for improving the productivity in certain elite coffee varieties, he added. Further, ICGN has formed a draft strategy, which will specify its activities and funding pattern for the research programmes.

Coffee is a perennial crop plant of the genus, Coffea. It is learnt that there are more than 100-related information about its gene pool.

Though a number of breeding programmes have been initiated at the Central Coffee Research Institute, progress had been slow using conventional approaches because of many factors like, narrow genetic base, lack of genetic markers/efficient screening tools, outbreeding behaviour, long generation advancement and many more, Mr Aggarwal explained. Hence, a need was felt for genomics by molecular characterisation, which is a prelude to DNA marker-based coffee breeding programmes.