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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Impact of Plant Diseases on World Chocolate Production

Authors
item Bowers, John
item Bailey, Bryan
item Hebbar, Prakash - M&M MARS
item Sanogo, Soumaila - UNIVERSITY OF MD
item Lumsden, Robert - USDA-ARS COLLABORATOR

Submitted to: Plant Health Progress
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 14, 2001
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Over the past two decades several important fungal diseases have gained considerable importance and pose a serious threat to cacao trees, the source of chocolate. The demand for chocolate is growing, and the question is, will the world supply of a product that comes from a strictly tropical, rain forest-inhabiting tree continue to meet the demand. In Brazil, the production of cocoa beans has dropped from 400,000 to 100,000 metric tons in just 10 years. This is largely due to the invasion of a fungus which causes witches' broom disease. The disease affects the branches of the tree, and it's pods, destroying the beans within. A second fungus causes frosty pod rot, that also destroys the cacao beans inside the pods. The disease that causes the most widespread destruction of cacao worldwide is black pod, which is caused by several species of a fungus-like microorganism. The organism is found around the world in all cacao growing areas, and cause sporadic losses. One species is spreading throughout West Africa, the world's premier cacao growing area, and causes major losses. The impact on cacao will continue to be devastating until progress is made to control these diseases. Short term solutions, such as fungicides, are often cost prohibitive and may be damaging to the environment. Long term solutions, such as biotechnological approaches or breeding for disease resistance, is time consuming to develop and are not yet available. The most immediate answer to the disease problems is to use what tools are presently available in an integrated approach. These include limited biological control methods and disease resistant material, crop sanitation, and cultural practices, including shade optimization, pruning, and soil fertility management.

Technical Abstract: Over the past two decades several important fungal diseases have gained considerable importance and pose a serious threat to cacao trees, the source of chocolate. The demand for chocolate is growing, and the question is, will the world supply of a product that comes from a strictly tropical, rain forest-inhabiting tree continue to meet the demand. In Brazil, the production of cocoa beans has dropped from 400,000 to 100,000 metric tons in just 10 years. This is largely due to the invasion of a fungus which causes witches' broom disease. The disease affects the branches of the tree, and it's pods, destroying the beans within. A second fungus causes frosty pod rot, that also destroys the cacao beans inside the pods. The disease that causes the most widespread destruction of cacao worldwide is black pod, which is caused by several species of a fungus-like microorganism. The organism is found around the world in all cacao growing areas, and cause sporadic losses. One species is spreading throughout West Africa, the world's premier cacao growing area, and causes major losses. The impact on cacao will continue to be devastating until progress is made to control these diseases. Short term solutions, such as fungicides, are often cost prohibitive and may be damaging to the environment. Long term solutions, such as biotechnological approaches or breeding for disease resistance, is time consuming to develop and are not yet available. The most immediate answer to the disease problems is to use what tools are presently available in an integrated approach. These include limited biological control methods and disease resistant material, crop sanitation, and cultural practices, including shade optimization, pruning, and soil fertility management.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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