Tree Genetics & Genomes

, 15:11 | Cite as

Genetic identity and origin of “Piura Porcelana”—a fine-flavored traditional variety of cacao (Theoborma cacao) from the Peruvian Amazon

  • Enrique Arevalo-Gardini
  • Lyndel W. Meinhardt
  • Luis C. Zuñiga
  • Juan Arévalo-Gardni
  • Lambert Motilal
  • Dapeng ZhangEmail author
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Germplasm Diversity


Cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) is a tropical rainforest tree that is indigenous to the Amazon region of South America. The myriad of river basins present in the Upper Amazon are where the largest diversity of cacao populations is found. Although it is generally accepted that cacao was first cultivated in Mesoamerica, there is evidence for domestication in South America, the center of origin. “Piura Porcelana” is a traditional cacao variety from northern Peru that is cultivated for the gourmet chocolate market. The demand for fine-flavored cacao used in high-end chocolates and the corresponding premium prices paid for distinct cacao flavors provide economic incentives for the use and conservation of these traditional varieties. In the present study, we compared the genetic identity of Piura Porcelana cacao with 11 known cacao germplasm groups existing in the ex situ cacao genebanks, along with the living wild populations from the Santiago and Morona river valleys in northern Peru. The results of SNP analysis showed that Piura Porcelana shares the same general population membership with the “Nacional” cacao from Ecuador. However, Piura Porcelana significantly differed from Nacional (Fst = 0.185, P < 0.001), suggesting its unique genetic status. The high genetic similarity between Piura Porcelana and newly collected wild cacao suggested that the wild progenitors of Pirua Porcelana were from these river valleys, and this traditional variety could have been the result of independent domestication in northern Peru. These results provide new evidence of cacao domestication in the Amazon and will contribute to the sustainable use and conservation of these cacao genetic resources.


Cacao Nacional SNP markers Peruvian Amazon Chocolate 



Single-nucleotide polymorphism


Deoxyribonucleic acid


Simple sequence repeat

RNase A

Ribonuclease I or ribonucleate 3′-pyrimidinooligonucleotidohydrolase


Polymerase chain reaction


Integrated fluidic circuit


Principle coordinate analysis


Specific target amplification



Authors would like to acknowledge Rey Loor Solorzano, Wilberth Phillips-Mora, and Brian Irish for supplying the samples. Authors also express appreciation to Stephen Pinney for SNP genotyping and Sue Mischke for reviewing and editing this manuscript. References to a company and/or product by the USDA are only for the purposes of information and do not imply approval or recommendation of the product to the exclusion of others that may also be suitable.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Data archiving statement

All row data for the Peruvian germplasm and the reference trees are being submitted to the International Cacao germplasm Database (

Supplementary material

11295_2019_1316_MOESM1_ESM.docx (21 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 21 kb)


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Enrique Arevalo-Gardini
    • 1
  • Lyndel W. Meinhardt
    • 2
  • Luis C. Zuñiga
    • 1
  • Juan Arévalo-Gardni
    • 1
  • Lambert Motilal
    • 3
  • Dapeng Zhang
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Instituto de Cultivos Tropicales (ICT)TarapotoPeru
  2. 2.USDA/ARSSustainable Perennial Crops LaboratoryBeltsvilleUSA
  3. 3.Cocoa Research CentreThe University of the West IndiesSt. AugustineTrinidad & Tobago

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