03/07/2021

Researcher studies effects of climate change on Venezuelan cocoa

Researcher studies effects of climate change on Venezuelan cocoa

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Venezuelan researcher Fabiola María Ríos Bolívar studies the behavior of Venezuela’s cocoa against environmental conditions caused by climate change, with public funding received at the end of December 2019.

According to the Biology student at the Central University of Venezuela and a worker at the Corporation for Scientific and Technological Development (Codecyt), it’s necessary to guarantee food and well-being to the population through knowledge, science and innovation, So studying the photosynthetic apparatus of plants allows us to know which species can have better and greater adaptability to high temperatures, drought and high concentrations of CO₂.

“I chose Venezuelan cocoa because it’s one of the best cocoa in the world. This rich fruit is classified as a fine aroma cocoa, and has great economic value for our country; That is why it’s so important to boost their scientific study to increase production, ”she said.

In this regard, Fabiola Ríos explained that his project will study the increase in CO₂ concentrations and the increase in temperatures (effects of climate change) in several clones found in the Las Bromelias estate, Cumboto sector, located in Ocumare de la costa, state Aragua.

“I have been working on this subject for a year and a half. Generally, at a higher rate of photosynthesis, there is a better response of plants to environmental conditions; also, there may be greater assimilation of nutrients, as well as greater production of leaves and fruits, and plant growth, ”she said.

Training in Mexico

The project to evaluate the effect of a high concentration of CO₂ and an increase in temperature on cocoa includes a training process in Mexico, specifically at the Technological Institute of Conkal.

Ríos said that this academic center has all the technology and established practice, all through a new platform called “Arduino”, which through free software and hardware is able to modify or control the required environmental conditions.

“Through the controllers built with the Arduino platform, it will be possible to control two environmental variables of my project, in a growth chamber, made of glass, where CO₂ concentrations and temperatures are controlled and ecophysiological parameters generated by these conditions will be determined. The idea is to learn the operation of these equipment and then bring this technology to Venezuela and be able to evaluate how our cocoa would behave under these conditions of climate change, ”she explained.

The young student added that the controllers built with the Arduino operating system is an excellent investment for Venezuela since it’s very economical with respect to those of other existing operating systems in the international market.

Infrared gas analyzer

According to Ríos, this scientific study requires a device called infrared gas analyzer, whose objective is to evaluate how it behaves and how the gas exchange between the leaf and the environment.

“The analyzer evaluates photosynthesis, exchange, perspiration, stomatic conductance, which is a very important value; It’s the opening of stomata at the leaf level and that allows us to calculate the physiology of plants in vivo. We can control the light intensity, at the moment when the leaf perceives those photons, and with that light, the whole process of photosynthesis, assimilation of CO₂, and water use efficiency begins, ”she said.

In this regard, she stated that, through some graphs that are constructed with the data generated by the analyzer, measurements of the rate of photosynthesis, the concentration of intercellular CO₂ and the vapor pressure deficit between the sheet and the air.

“We can control, through the chamber, the relative humidity, temperature and light intensity that will be released in the chamber. We choose the leaf because it’s the part of the plant that processes nutrients, through photosynthesis. Concluding with the results of this research, the behavior of the physiological parameters to these conditions, caused by climate change, can be known and to be able to choose the plant materials that best adapt to these changes, ”she said.

Fabiola took the opportunity to invite all young people to get involved in the scientific study, to fight to lift Venezuela.

“Those of us who stay in our homeland can. We must take advantage of knowledge and information, and that also depends on us. Also, disseminate the information and publicize the work that is done and the benefits it can bring to all Venezuelans, ”she said.