Dr. Juan F. Medrano, class of 1969, is a member of the ZAMORANO Board of Trustees and professor at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Dr. Medrano, along with three other researchers, set out to collect genetic material from coffee trees in California in order to develop the Coffea arabica genome sequencing project.
The study consists of the use of plant material from a Geisha variety coffee tree to develop the genome of Coffea arabica. Coffea arabica is a natural hybrid derived from Coffea canephora and Coffea eugenioides. It involves the development of a complex genome that has four sets of chromosomes, as opposed to the two usual sets found in humans or other plants. Studying this genetic information will shed light on how to produce new varieties of improved coffee.
Coffea arabica generates more than 70% of the world’s coffee production; therefore, any improvement in its genome will contribute to significant achievements in the production of this crop worldwide. This new technology will produce not only a better yield and quality of coffee, but also new varieties capable of withstanding diseases and adapting to climate change.
This project represents an outstanding scientific achievement as it sets the guidelines for other researchers to continue to develop plants that can adapt to the new global environmental conditions and help the industry continue to supply the growing high demand for coffee.