Drewry's USDA grant aims to improve coffee crops


Coffee isn't grown in Ohio, but a researcher from The Ohio State University is at the forefront of advancing innovations in coffee crop breeding, production and resilience.

Darren Drewry (headshot)

Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE) Assistant Professor Darren Drewry will lead a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) to developing high-throughput phenotyping for coffee yield, physiological performance and disease resistance.

With a retail value of $200 billion globally, coffee is one of the most important global crop commodities. This project will bring modern high-throughput phenotyping (HTP) techniques to coffee breeding through the integration of hyper-spectral reflectance and gas exchange observations, machine learning and genetics. Perennial fruit crops such as coffee involve challenges to breeding beyond those faced by most annual crops, including smaller populations, longer breeding cycles and larger areas for field evaluations. This highly collaborative project will bring modern HTP tools to bear on a new coffee breeding population that will be grown and evaluated at an array of sites globally. 

Berny Mier y Teran inspecting coffee plant
Berny Mier y Teran examines coffee tree at an experimental station in El Salvador

The $649,880 grant funds a unique collaboration between Ohio State, World Coffee Research, the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Hilo, Hawaii, the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center and members of the Hawaii Coffee Association and the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity to work with a great set of collaborators to develop phenomic methods to both improve selection and increase genetic gain in coffee,” said Drewry. “A key focus of this work will be the development of techniques that can be generalized to coffee breeding and evaluation programs across the globe.”

A key member of this collaboration is Jorge Berny Mier y Teran, a research scientist in breeding and genomics for World Coffee Research (WCR) who is overseeing the development of a new coffee breeding population.

“This is an extremely timely opportunity to advance coffee productivity and resilience through phenomics given our new initiative at WCR to breed more productive varieties in a faster and more efficient way,” said Berny Mier y Teran.

modified version of original article on FABE website

Category: Research