The ninth session of West African Cocoa Breeders¹ Working Group (ACBWG) was held 9-10 March at the IITA Ikeja Guest House, Lagos, Nigeria. The meeting was attended by participants from CRIN, Nigeria; CRIG, Ghana; IRAD, Cameroon; CNRA, Cote d¹Ivoire; and representatives of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF).
The meeting discussed the results of the fingerprinting component of the African Cocoa Initiative (ACI) project of WCF, which is true-to-type genotyping of cocoa germplasm from breeders’ collection and seed garden materials. A lot of discussion was held on the issue of identifying mislabeling in cocoa germplasm, which is one of the major concerns in identification of true-to-type clones and its effect on production in farmers’ fields. It was observed that majority of the clones in all the countries are mislabeled.
There were brainstorming sessions on how to address the issue of progenies that have been generated from non-true-to-type parental populations and have been distributed to farmers over the years, and its negative effects on cocoa production. Some ideas have been put forward to resolve these issues, which will require submission of additional proposals to WCF and a probable requirement of Phase II of the ACI project. In addition, discussions were also held on testing the fidelity of crosses considering cocoa as an outcrossing species and the probability of some cross-contamination during manual pollination and its effect on cocoa production.
The meeting ended with a note on identification of few standard true-to-type cocoa clones across the region that could be used as a reference and maintained for future cocoa improvement programs across all the countries.
This meeting was followed by a 3-day workshop on data handling, statistical analysis, and data interpretations, with Trushar Shah, Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP) Hub Manager, based in IITA-Kenya, as resource person. The workshop involved data visualization using Flapjack software and data analysis using R software.
The workshop was opened by Ranjana Bhattacharjee, IITA Molecular Geneticist, with an opening session on the importance of genome-wide SNP genotyping for true-to-type identification, diversity analysis, genome-wide association study with the availability of quality phenotypic data and probability of using genomic selection in cocoa. This was followed by hands-on training on different statistical packages for true-to-type identification of genotypes and diversity assessment. Trushar also spoke about the importance of the IBP and Breeding Management System (BMS) as a tool for breeders for database management.
The Chief of Party of the ACI project, Sona Ebai, commended the workshop arrangements and also the choice of resource person for the workshop. He emphasized the need for writing a communique on the outcome and the impact of the first phase of the project in terms of understanding the cocoa germplasm in West and Central Africa, which contributes about 65% to the world production.