New Research Facility for Mars, Inc. and UC Davis

cacao pods
Cacao pods (photo Mars, Incorporated)

Mars, Incorporated is developing a research and development facility in Davis, California, and will partner with UC Davis scientists (faculty and students) on developing improved cacao strains.

David Mackill, director of Cocoa Genetics and Breeding at Mars, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, has been part of the development team.

“The project builds on the relationship we [Mars] have developed with UC Davis over the last 35 years,” said Mackill.

David Mackill
David Mackill, UC Davis and Mars, Incorporated. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)

That relationship has included collaboration on research projects related to agriculture, food, nutrition, biology, and veterinary health, including sequencing the cacao genome in 2010 and founding the African Orphan Crops Consortium focused on improving yield, productivity, and adaptability of key crops.

With the support of Mars, UC Davis is constructing a state-of-the-art greenhouse complex on campus that will allow university and Mars scientists to maintain a collection of cacao clones that reflect the diversity of the species and to use the collection to breed new clones with higher productivity, resistance to diseases and pests, and high-quality chocolate.

Cacao pods
Cacao pods. (photo Keith Weller, USDA)

Mars launched its Cocoa for Generations strategy in 2018 to develop more productive, resilient and profitable cocoa that improves the livelihoods of farmers and reduces negative impacts on the environment.

“The Mars Cocoa for Generations strategy is a good example of a private enterprise partnering with UC Davis, a leading research institution, to establish more sustainable practices in agriculture,” said Davis Mayor Brett Lee.

Resources (information for this article is from these two sources):

  • Mars Cocoa Hub Means More Partnerships with UC Davis Researchers. Anne Ternus-Bellamy, Davis Enterprise, March 17, 2019
  • Mars Inc. Collaborates with UC Davis on New Research Facility. Sam Boykin, Sacramento Business Journal, March 19, 2019

(Article by Ann Filmer, Dept. of Plant Sciences, UC Davis)