First author: Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), 7170 Turrialba, Costa Rica; and second author: Institute of Biological Sciences, Edward Llwyd Building, The University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3DA, UK.
Moniliophthora roreri, the cause of frosty pod rot (FP), is a specialized fungal pathogen (family Marasmiaceae) that invades only actively growing pods of cacao, Theobroma cacao, and related species of Theobroma and Herrania. FP damages pods and the commercially important seeds that some of these species produce. M. roreri was confined to northwestern South America until the 1950s. Its appearance in Panama in 1956 signaled a change in its geographic distribution. Now, it is found in 11 countries in tropical America. The fungus is currently in an active dispersal phase, possibly due to an increase in human-mediated spread. FP is more destructive than black pod (Phytophthora spp.) and more dangerous and difficult to control than witches' broom, caused by Moniliophthora (Crinipellis) perniciosa. The aggressiveness of M. roreri, its capacity to survive different environmental conditions, its rapid natural dispersal, its propensity for man-mediated dispersal, and the susceptibility of most commercial cacao genotypes, all indicate that FP presents a substantial threat to cacao cultivation worldwide.