Fifth International Vanilla Congress: what future for this emblematic orchid?

From June 4 to 7 in St Pierre on Reunion Island, the 5th international vanilla congress will be held, organized by the University of Reunion and CIRAD. During this event, around sixty scientists from 20 different countries will come together to discuss the future of vanilla and the crucial issues surrounding this spice in a constantly evolving world.

Réunion is recognized as the historic home of vanilla cultivation, notably thanks to two major innovations designed in the middle of the 19th century that were the hand pollination, by Edmond Albius, a young slave, and the process of preparation of ripe pods developed by Ernest Loupy. Their contributions made possible the birth of the Bourbon vanilla sector (Vanilla planifolia) which remains one of the most popular vanillas in the world. They also revolutionized the vanilla industry by opening up the possibility of growing vanilla beyond its area of ​​origin, Mexico.

Today, Madagascar is the main producer of vanilla since the big island exports close to three quarters of the 2500 tonnes of black vanilla consumed annually around the world. The main other producing countries are'IndonesiaPapua New Guinea,'UgandaComoros, and the Mexico. Reunion only produces a small part of world production (around twenty tonnes per year) but remains renowned for the dynamism of a sector which knows how to reconcile traditions, quality and innovations.                                          

The main themes addressed by the delegates during these three days of discussions will be:

  • La bio-ecology of vanilla, the diversity of resources and uses of the spice (June 4)
  • The new approaches and practices for sustainable vanilla production (June 5)
  • The innovations and trends in the areas of treatment and marketing of vanilla as well as his market outlook (June 6)

Goals

This congress aims to strengthen exchanges between researchers and developers in the vanilla industry. This type of meeting is particularly important for support a sector that suffers from recurring crises and lacks research which are specifically dedicated to him.

Several international experts present

Several renowned international experts will speak. Among them :

  • Eric Jennings University of Toronto (Victoria College) – Canada | The journeys of vanilla: the history of the introduction of vanilla to Bourbon (Réunion), Madagascar and Tahiti in the 19th century.
  • Emerson Pansarin: University of São Paulo – Brazil | The natural history of neotropical vanilla.
  • Kenneth Cameron: University of Wisconsin-Madison – USA | Population genetics, metabarcoding of the mycobiome, and the isolation of fungal endophytes: implications for the conservation of native North American vanilla species.
  • Aro Vonjy Ramarosandratana: University of Antananarivo – Madagascar | Perception by local populations of leafless vanilla trees from Madagascar.
  • Paulo Parada Molina: Veracruzana University – Mexico | How is climate change affecting tropical agriculture? Loss of areas suitable for growing vanilla.
  • Alan H. Chambers: KeyGene USA / University of Florida – USA | Improving the Future of Vanilla for producers, buyers and consumers through plant breeding, genetics and genomics.
  • Araceli Perez Silva: Technological Institute of Tuxtepec – Mexico | New species of vanilla for commerce.
  • Michel Manceau: The Vanilla Report – France | Volatility and speculation in the vanilla market: market trends and pricing scenarios. How can farmers cope with the situation while still maintaining decent income ?

Participants will have a day of field visit on June 7 to discover the know-how of Reunion vanilla producers. They will also have the opportunity to discover the collection of vanilla plants at the Vatel Biological Resources Center on June 6.

© R. Carayol, Cirad.

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