Submitted to: Plant Health Progress
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: February 1, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Over the past two decades several important fungal diseases have gained considerable importance and pose a serious threat to cacao trees. The demand for chocolate is growing, and the question is, will the world supply of a product which comes from strictly tropical, rain forest- inhabiting trees, 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, largely due to the invasion of a fungus which causes witches' broom disease. The disease affects the branches of the tree, and its pods, destroying the beans within. A second fungus causes frosty pod rot which also destroys the cacao beans inside the pods. The disease that causes the most widespread destruction of cacao worldwide is a 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 causes 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 prohibitively 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.