New light of the arabica coffee species

Published: December 28, 2023 07:20 AM

Written by: Admin

Coffee's origin tale has been expanded upon through the use of DNA fingerprinting techniques.


Researchers identified genetic clusters and domestication routes during the early stages of commercial coffee's history in a ground-breaking study that was released last month. This information provided fresh insight into the early movements of the arabica coffee species that occurred centuries ago.


Yemen has traditionally been seen as something of a cradle, a first cradle through which coffee further genetically evolved and eventually found its way to the rest of the world, despite Ethiopia being clearly confirmed as the genetic birthplace of coffee.


The latest study involved the genetic fingerprinting of 555 distinct strains of arabica from Ethiopia, Yemen, and other parts of the world. It was headed by Christophe Montagnon of RD2 Vision, based in France. It is the "first study to cover the entire genetic diversity of both Ethiopia and Yemen," according to the scientists.


The study's key finding was that, since groundbreaking studies more than 50 years ago, there didn't seem to have been any loss of genetic diversity among farmed arabica, as contrasted to wild arabica.


"Our study did not detect such genetic diversity loss for cultivated coffee, despite the fact that legitimate concerns have been raised regarding the impact of deforestation and climate change on the erosion of the genetic diversity of C. arabica in Ethiopia," the authors said.


The engagement of a multinational group of stakeholders with a variety of interests made the study possible. The Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research, the nonprofit Alliance for Coffee Excellence (United States), the Yemen-focused coffee company Qima Coffee (UK and Yemen), R2D (France), and the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority are among the organizations with which the author is affiliated.


The study was funded by USAID Ethiopia Feed the Future Value Chain Activity, Qima Coffee, and the Yemeni samples.


Faris Sheibani, CEO and Founder of Qima Coffee, stated in a release about the publication that "beyond the fascinating results, a critical part of this study's grand achievement is the fact that it brought together two of the world's most important and historic coffee origins in a pioneering research project to create knowledge for the benefit of farmers." "That in and of itself is cause for celebration."


Six primary genetic mother groups have been identified as a consequence of the genetics research. These groups are the ancestors of every coffee cultivator in the globe today.


They are Core Ethiopia 1, Core Ethiopia 2, Ethiopian Legacy, Typica-Bourbon, New-Yemen, and Harrar, according to the scholars.


The genetic group known as Ethiopian Legacy, which is derived from the Ethiopia Core 1 and 2 groups, is present in both Southern Ethiopia and Southern Yemen, serving as the connecting factor between the two regions.


Two other major Yemeni groupings, Typica-Bourbon and New Yemen, sprung from the Ethiopian Legacy group. The latter group was initially discovered in a 2020 study conducted by RD2 and Qima Coffee; they never left Yemen.


The last major domesticated genetic group, known to scientists as Harrar, originated in Ethiopia or Yemen and was later found in the Hararghe region of Eastern Ethiopia.


The study looks to the future while also documenting the early history of cultivated coffee over the ages.


"Our study also proposes new leads for the exploitation of hybrid potential through crosses between genetically distant parents," the authors wrote in their paper.


The complete study was published last month in Agronomy, one of hundreds of titles maintained by the open-access publishing platform MDPI.


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