By Emma Bladyka, Coffee Science Manager, Specialty Coffee Association of America
Back in April of 2012, World Coffee Research led an expedition trip to South Sudan, where we hunted for and collected samples from wild C. arabica accessions. This was a multi-purpose trip, partially to train university staff and students at origin as well as assess the health and viability of the unique and exciting wild coffee growing in the long forgotten forests of South Sudan.
The long-term vision for the project is oriented around assessing the populations and perhaps one day growing native coffee in the region, or even cultivating these lines to be grown in different origin countries. To begin that long process, we collected plant samples in order to better understand the levels of genetic diversity represented in these populations. Based on this information, recommendations could be made as to the most appropriate way to conserve this invaluable genetic diversity.
Dr. Sarada Krishnan was one of the scientists who was a part of the South Sudan expedition crew and led the charge of collecting accessions for genetic analysis. She noted the location and environment of each population, recorded the status of the tree and tagged each one for later visits. She collected leaves from each tree in order to understand how they were related and how much genetic diversity exists within and between populations. Dr. Krishnan is currently the Director of Horticulture and Center for Global Initiatives at Denver Botanic Gardens (www.botanicgardens.org). However, it turns out that she also has a long history with coffee. Her family, including her father and uncles, owned coffee plantations in the state of Kerala, India. In graduate school she gravitated towards coffee after becoming interested in the flora of Madagascar. Some time ago, her father sold his plantation. Now, she is continuing the family tradition with her own, a recent purchase of two farms and partial ownership of another in the Jamaica Blue Mountain district, and a coffee distribution company in the United States named “Diversity Coffee”. She hopes in the future to devote twenty acres to scientific research.
She became interested in World Coffee Research (WCR) when it began to be discussed within the coffee industry, and has participated actively since. Her ties to and professional experience with international tropical agricultural development are strong, and today she is responsible for developing and leading global initiatives at the Denver Botanic Gardens.