Nestlé Experts Develop New Database to Better Identify More Climate-Resilient Coffee Plants

In response to the existential threat posed by climate change to coffee cultivation, Nestlé’s team of experts is pioneering innovative approaches to mitigate its impact on arabica coffee, the backbone of the industry. With a significant portion of the world’s coffee production relying on arabica, which is particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures and diseases exacerbated by climate change, Nestlé is leading efforts to develop more resilient coffee varieties using advanced data science and artificial intelligence techniques.

Arabica, constituting around 70% of global coffee production, faces challenges such as reduced arable land availability and water scarcity due to climate change-induced alterations in weather patterns. To safeguard the future of coffee farming and uphold the livelihoods of farmers, Nestlé’s plant scientists are working to identify and breed arabica varieties that exhibit higher yields, enhanced disease resistance, and drought tolerance.

Central to this endeavor is the development of a high-quality arabica reference genome, achieved through cutting-edge data science methodologies. This reference genome, now publicly accessible in a digital database, facilitates the precise analysis of various coffee traits, including yield potential, cherry size, disease resistance, and flavor profiles.

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Jeroen Dijkman, Head of Nestlé’s Institute of Agricultural Sciences, likened the new reference genome to a comprehensive map of a bustling city, enabling scientists to pinpoint crucial genetic markers responsible for specific traits in mature coffee plants. This resource empowers researchers not only within Nestlé but also across the scientific community to identify, select, and breed improved arabica coffee varieties with precision and efficiency.

The publication of this work in Nature Genetics underscores its significance in the realm of plant research. Patrick Descombes, Senior Expert in Genomics at Nestlé Research, emphasized the exceptional quality of the team’s efforts, leveraging state-of-the-art genomics methodologies to create an unparalleled arabica reference.

Collaborative efforts with esteemed academic institutions worldwide, including the French National Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) and leading universities in Singapore, Brazil, the United States, Uganda, Finland, Germany, and Belgium, have been instrumental in advancing this research. This global consortium exemplifies the collective commitment to addressing the pressing challenges facing coffee cultivation.

Nestlé’s dedication to innovation and sustainability extends beyond research laboratories, with tangible outcomes already emerging in coffee-growing regions. Through initiatives like the Nescafé Plan 2030, Nestlé is collaborating directly with farmers to cultivate elite coffee varieties developed by its plant sciences experts. In 2022 alone, over 6 million plantlets were distributed, signaling tangible progress towards a more resilient and sustainable coffee industry.


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