Activities | Staff



  • Successful association analysis study. Several markers for various traits identified.
  • First study to establish that cacao pulp chemistry varies with genetic group.
  • First molecular study to establish proof-of-concept of adulteration of fine-flavour cacao from DNA markers on single cacao beans.
  • First reported microsatellite study on wild Belizean Criollo cacao.
  • First unequivocal confirmation of mixed ancestry (Upper Amazon, Lower Amazon and Criollo) of ICS cacao accessions.
  • First successful training workshop: Molecular Markers for Germplasm Management 2010.
  • Shifted paradigm and provided better explanation for a centuries old mystery in cacao also known as the blast which decimated the industry in T&T.
  • Leaf tissue from all of the accessions of the ICGT have been sampled and DNA extracted for the purpose of using microsatellite (simple sequence repeat - SSR) analysis to genotype each accession and obtain a DNA fingerprint - part of the Global Fingerprinting Project.
  • SSR data have been obtained for 1642 accessions.
  • SNP data has been obtained for 343 accessions.
  • Mislabelled or unlabelled accessions in the International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad are being identified on a continuous basis.
  • Best practices have been established for the extraction of DNA samples of acceptable quality for characterisation using SSRs.
  • Participated in the International Cocoa Genome Sequencing Consortium, (one of two cocoa genome sequencing projects,) led by CIRAD. The cocoa genome sequence is available at CocoaGen DB.
  • Provided training to visiting students, interns and other researchers in molecular techniques.

Selected publications

Fang, W., Meinhardt, L.W., Mischke S., Bellato, C.M., Motilal, L., and Zhang D. 2014.
Accurate determination of genetic identity for a single cacao bean, using molecular
markers with a nanofluidic system, ensures cocoa authentication. Journal of Agricultural
and Food Chemistry 62: 481-487 doi: 10.1021/jf404402v, Web: 19 Dec 2013

Motilal, L.A., Zhang, D., Mischke, S., Meinhardt, L.W., Umaharan, P. 2013. Microsatellite-
aided detection of genetic redundancy improves management of the International Cocoa
Genebank, Trinidad. Tree Genetics & Genomes 9: 1395-1411.
doi: 10.1007/s11295-013-0645-5.

Motilal, L.A., Sreenivasan, T.N. 2013. Birth of Trinitario cacao: History intertwined with myths and edaphic and climatic factors. In: Combating Climate Change: An Agricultural
Perspective (eds. M.S. Kang and S.S. Banga). CRC Press, Taylor and Francis. Chapter 16, pp. 305-324.

Yang, J.Y., Scascitelli, M., Motilal, L.A., Sveinsson, S., Engels, J.M.M., Kane, N., Dempewolf, H., Zhang, D., Maharaj, K. and Cronk, Q.C.B. 2013. Complex origin of Trinitario-type Theobroma cacao (Malvaceae) from Trinidad and Tobago revealed using plastid genomics. Tree Genetics & Genomes 9: 829-840. doi 10.1007/s11295-013-0601-4.

Motilal, L.A., Zhang, D., Umaharan, P., Boccara, M., Mischke, S., Sankar, A., and Meinhardt, L.W. 2012. Elucidation of genetic identity and population structure of cacao germplasm within an international cacao genebank. Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization 10: 232-241. doi: 10.1017/S1479262112000305

Motilal, L.A., Sreenivasan, T.N. 2012. Revisiting 1727: Crop failure leads to the birth of Trinitario cacao. Journal of Crop Improvement 26: 599-626. doi:10.1080/15427528.2012.663734

Motilal, L., Zhang, D., Umaharan,P., Mischke, B.S., Pinney, S.M., Meinhardt, L.W. 2011. Microsatellite fingerprinting in the International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad: Accession and plot homogeneity information for germplasm management. Plant Genetic Resources. 9:430-438.

The genome of Theobroma cacao” Nature Genetics Volume:43, Pages:101–108 (2011)

Zhang, D., Figueira, A., Motilal, L., Lachenaud, P., Meinhardt, L.W. 2011. Theobroma. In:
Wild Crop Relatives: Genomics and Breeding Resources (ed. C. Kole), Springer-Verlag,
Berlin. Chapter 13, pp. 277-296. doi 10.1007/978-3-642-21201-7_13

Motilal, L., Zhang, D., Umaharan, P., Mischke, B.S., Mooleedhar, V., Meinhardt, L.W. (2010). The relic Criollo cacao in Belize- genetic diversity and relationship with Trinitario and other cacao clones held in the International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad. Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization. Plant Genetic Resources 8: 106-115