The University of Reading has opened a new £1 million greenhouse facility for the quarantine and housing of its cocoa collection, which it maintains at the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre.
The University took over the collection from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in 1985, but this is the first time that all 400 varieties have been consolidated into a single greenhouse at Shinfield, which should make maintenance of the collection more efficient and speed up the quarantine process.
“We use a lot of energy keeping the cocoa plants in tropical conditions, and we can do that much more efficiently in this new facility,” cocoa project leader Professor Paul Hadley told the BBC. “”Most cocoa is produced by subsistence farmers, who might be farming one or two hectares. As well as needing new, more efficient varieties, they also need to improve the way they grow the cocoa.”
After up to two years in quarantine, clean cocoa seeds are sent from Reading to some 20 different countries, around the world, including several in West Africa which produces 75 per cent of the cocoa used for world chocolate production.