University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
Pathogens of the Straminipile genus Phytophthora cause significant disease losses to global cocoa production. P. megakarya causes significant pod rot and losses due to canker in West Africa, whereas P. capsici and P. citrophthora cause pod rots in Central and South America. The global and highly damaging P. palmivora attacks all parts of the cocoa tree at all stages of the growing cycle. This pathogen causes 20 to 30% pod losses through black pod rot, and kills up to 10% of trees annually through stem cankers. P. palmivora has a complex disease cycle involving several sources of primary inoculum and several modes of dissemination of secondary inoculum. This results in explosive epidemics during favorable environmental conditions. The spread of regional pathogens must be prevented by effective quarantine barriers. Resistance to all these Phytophthora species is typically low in commercial cocoa genotypes. Disease losses can be reduced through integrated management practices that include pruning and shade management, leaf mulching, regular and complete harvesting, sanitation and pod case disposal, appropriate fertilizer application and targeted fungicide use. Packaging these options to improve uptake by smallholders presents a major challenge for the industry.