Frosty Pod Rot, a potentially devastating disease of cocoa caused by the fungus Moniliophthora roreri, has been reported for the first time in Jamaica. First discovered in Ecuador in 1917, Frosty Pod Rot has since spread to many other Latin American countries including Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Until now, countries in the Caribbean have remained free of the disease. Frosty Pod Rot can be spread rapidly by wind, water and humans due to the production of millions of white, powdery spores on the pod surface that give the ‘frosty’ appearance. Yield losses are dependent on a number of factors, including plantation age, pod maturity, management practice, proximity to other infected plantations and weather conditions. In severe cases, the entire cocoa crop can be destroyed.
The disease was first noticed in Jamaica by a farmer in the Clarendon area, who observed unusual fungal disease on their cocoa pods and reported it to the Cocoa Industry Board in August 2016. Frosty Pod Rot was tentatively diagnosed by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) Research and Development Division. It was confirmed by experts at the CABI UK Diagnostic and Advisory Service, who subsequently received pods for examination and identified the causal fungus.
Jamaican cocoa ranks among the best in the world in terms of flavour. On confirmation of the presence of Frosty Pod Rot, the Ministry immediately informed the international community and announced measures to contain and eradicate the disease, including restrictions on the movement of cocoa material within and from the country.
The Diagnostic and Advisory Service, based at the CABI UK Centre, Egham, can receive and examine plant material in order to provide a diagnosis for plant health problems. Supported by the Microbial and Molecular Services team, authoritative identification can also be provided for organisms associated with or isolated from symptomatic plant material and for individual specimens and cultures submitted by a client. The service is unique in its global operation and the range of plant health problems it can handle.
Evans, H. C. (2016). Frosty pod rot (Moniliophthora roreri). pp.63-96 in: B.A. Bailey & L.W. Meinhardt (Eds.), Cacao diseases: a history of old enemies and new encounters. Gewerbestrasse, Switzerland, Springer International Publishing. ISBN 9783319247892
Flood, J., Guest, D., Holmes, K. A., Keane, P., Padi, B., & Sulistyowati, E. (2004). Cocoa under attack. pp. 33-53 in: J. Flood & R. Murphy (Eds.), Cocoa futures. Chinciná, Colombia, CABI-FEDERACAFE. ISBN 9589744117
Phillips-Mora, W. & Wilkinson, M. J. (2007). Frosty pod of cacao: A disease with a limited geographic range but unlimited potential of damage. Phytopathology 97: 1644-1647.
Practical management advice on Frosty pod rot is available as a Plantwise Green List.
You can also read more about how Ecuador have been combatting the disease on the Plantwise blog: https://blog.plantwise.org/tag/frosty-pod-rot/.
This blog was written by Mike Rutherford and Holly Wright.