Climate adaptation in a minor crop species: is the cocoa breeding network prepared for climate change?

Aidan D. Farrell, Kevon Rhiney, Anton Eitzinger, Pathmanathan Umaharan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Plant breeding has undoubtedly been successful in increasing the yield of high value commodity crops. In recent decades, efforts have been made to repeat this success in ‘orphan crops’ through a network of regional and national organizations largely composed of public and not-for-profit institutions. Adapting to climate change is a key challenge for these networks. Here we seek to analyze the particular challenges that characterize efforts to develop climate-smart varieties in minor crops, using the example of cocoa. Cocoa is a high-value commodity with a global research network; however, to date it has not received sustained attention from major global research centers. We estimate that globally <100 new cocoa varieties have been released since 2000, and our analysis suggests that this low number is constrained not by a limited availability of germplasm, but by limitations in the infrastructure focused on the final stages of breeding. We conclude that selecting minor crops for a future climate requires a long-term, regional approach that exploits modern technologies, integrates participatory selection, and is managed through a centrally funded network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)812-833
Number of pages22
JournalAgroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 9 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Development
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


  • climate adaptation
  • Climate change
  • orphan crops
  • plant breeding
  • Theobroma cacao


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