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Cacao Diseases: Important Threats to Chocolate Production Worldwide

December 2007 , Volume 97 , Number  12
Pages  1,634 - 1,639

Randy C. Ploetz

University of Florida, IFAS, Department of Plant Pathology, Tropical Research & Education Center, 18905 SW 280th Street, Homestead, FL 33031-3314.

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Theobroma cacao, cacao, is an ancient, neotropical domesticate. It is now grown throughout the humid, lowland tropics and is the basis of a multibillion dollar confectionary trade. Diverse diseases impact production of the crop. They reduce yields by ca. 20%, but could cause far greater losses if certain highly damaging diseases were to become more widely distributed. Among the most potentially dangerous of these diseases are frosty pod, caused by Moniliophthora roreri, and witches' broom, caused by M. perniciosa (previously Crinipellis perniciosa). These two diseases occur only in the Western Hemisphere, and severe losses would follow their introduction to West Africa and Asia, where ca. 86% of all cacao production occurs. Elsewhere, Cacao swollen shoot virus and the damaging black pod agent, Phytophthora megakarya, are found in Western Africa; whereas vascular streak dieback, caused by Oncobasidium theobromae, is present only in Asia. Breeding programs are challenged by minimal resistance to some of the diseases. Progress that has been made is threatened by the “emergence” of other serious diseases, such as Ceratocystis wilt (Ceratocystis cacaofunesta). During this symposium, new insights are discussed on the biology, origins, pathology and phylogeny of the pathogens; as well as the biological, chemical and genetic management of the diseases that they cause.

© 2007 The American Phytopathological Society