USDA Researcher’s Role in Cacao

Dan Specialty Crops, This Land of Ours

There are many roles in agriculture. Hear how one researcher found her path to working on saving chocolate. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.

USDA researcher Doctor Alina Puig is working on the early detection of diseases in cacao, from which chocolate is made. She explains how she got into such a unique agricultural role.

“I started working with cacao after getting my Ph.D. at the University of Florida. I was working with avocados at the University of Florida, and then I was hired to work with the USDA cacao breeding program in Miami, Florida,” she said. “There I worked with identifying some of the exact species that cause Black Pod Rot and helping to screen material so that we could determine what plant material is resistant to disease so that those plants can be recommended to farmers.

Dr. Puig says the cacao plants are unique as well.

“Cacao plants are very cool. For people who have never seen it before, I would recommend looking them up on the internet,” she said. “The pod itself grows off the trunk. The outside is the texture of a pumpkin and when you break it open inside, it has white flesh. The flesh is sweet. You can eat it, but it doesn’t taste like chocolate. The chocolate is made from the beans. They go through a process of fermenting, drying, roasting, to get to the final product that we all love, which is chocolate.”

You can read more about Dr. Puig’s work in previous This Land of Ours posts.

Listen to Sabrina Halvorson’s This Land of Ours program here.

USDA Researcher’s Role in Cacao

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.