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  • Author or Editor: Donald S. Livingstone III x
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Edward J. Boza, Juan Carlos Motamayor, Freddy M. Amores, Sergio Cedeño-Amador, Cecile L. Tondo, Donald S. Livingstone III, Raymond J. Schnell and Osman A. Gutiérrez

Cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) is an important cash crop in tropical growing regions of the world and particularly for small cacao farmers. Over the past two decades, ‘CCN 51’ has become one of the most planted cultivars in Ecuador, mainly as a result of its high productivity and disease resistance. Intermixing of Nacional fine flavor Ecuadorian beans with beans of ‘CCN 51’ has become common practice, reducing overall bean quality and decreasing value. The primary goals of this study were to determine the genetic identity, structure, and allelic richness of ‘CCN 51’, its maternal origin and to compare ‘CCN 51’s’ agronomic characteristics against a composite group of Nacional cultivars. To investigate the complex genetic background of this cultivar, 70 simple sequence repeat loci were used. The high heterozygosity observed (56 of 70 loci) for ‘CCN 51’ is not characteristic of traditional Nacional cultivars. Comparison of agronomic characteristics between ‘CCN 51’ and several Nacional cultivars indicates significant differences in cacao dry bean weight, yield potential, production efficiency, percent healthy pods, and witches' broom [Moniliophthora perniciosa (Stahel) Aime & Phillips-Mora] disease incidence. Additionally, physical, chemical, and organoleptic characteristics suggest that ‘CCN 51’ is different from those of Nacional lineage. Based on population structure analysis, the predominant ancestries for ‘CCN 51’ are Iquitos (45.4%), Criollo (22.2%), and Amelonado (21.5%) genetic groups. A lesser proportion of its genome was accounted for by genetic groups Contamana (3.9%), Purús (2.5%), Marañon (2.1%), and Nacional (1.1%) admixtures. Results of phylogenetic analyses using the unweighted pair group method with arithmetic mean yielding high bootstrap values strongly support the relatedness of ‘CCN 51’ with Iquitos, Criollo, and Amelonado genetic groups. Moreover, seven mitochondrial simple sequence repeat loci revealed that ‘CCN 51’ maternally inherited the ‘IMC 67’ cytotype. ‘CCN 51’ constitutes a valuable cacao genetic resource that is currently used not only in its country of origin, but also in many other national breeding and selection programs worldwide.