The production of fine and flavor cacao is a major economic challenge for Ecuador. It currently relies on the cultivation of the "Nacional" hybrid pool, whose major ancestors have been identified. The origin of the "ancestral" variety was located in the south of the Ecuadorian Amazon where was also discovered the oldest Amazonian civilization (Mayo Chinchipe).
Using a multidisciplinary approach, main objectives are :
The main actions carried out can be summarized as follows :
New cacao genetic resources have been collected, propagated by grafting and cuttings, and preserved. The analysis of these cacao trees shows their genetic proximity to the Nacional variety and confirms our hypotheses.Ancient DNA analyzes provide direct access to past domestication by providing information on exploited diversity and heritage history. The analysis of ancient DNA made from ceramic residues found at an archaeological site located in the prospecting area. Results provide the first evidence for the use of T. cacao in the Americas and support the hypothesis that T. cacao was domesticated in South America at least 1,500 years before its transfer to Central America.
The perspectives are now to continue the collect, preservation and exploitation of the native cocoa trees of the Ecuadorian Amazon with the help of the local populations, and to continue the study of the past domestication of fine cacao varieties using paleogenomics.
Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural (INPC), Instituto Nacional de Investigación Agropecuaria (INIAP), Ministère de la culture et du patrimoine (Equateur) ; University of Calgary, University of British Columbia (Canada) ; University of California, UC-Davis, Kennesaw State University (USA) ; HelixVenture, UMR PALOC, UMR BIOGECO (France).