Crop diseases are an ever-increasing worldwide threat and estimated to be the cause of the 20-40% decrease in global agricultural productivity. With this boom in plant diseases affecting agricultural practices, there is therefore also an increased demand for research and the implementation of disease control and management schemes.
In the past twenty years, the Ivory Coast has produced over 25 million tonnes of cocoa beans; far more than any other country. However, this video suggests that some cocoa farmers might never have seen the end product of the crop they spend their time cultivating. This has implications for the cocoa supply chain: if farmers don’t know what end product they are aiming for, how can they know how, or even why, they should improve quality of their produce? If there is no ‘top-down’ flow of information on the end uses of a crop, can we be sure of a ‘bottom-up’ flow of information on working conditions and pay? Working towards establishing closer relationships between the beginning and the end of the supply chain, could lead to a greater opportunity for smallholder farmers to get a fair deal.
A recent article in Canada’s The Globe and Mail, discussed some of the upcoming issues associated with out-dated cultivation methods for cocoa crops. Demand for cocoa, and the end product chocolate, is increasing in Asian countries as salaries increase and demands shift. While it has been suggested that this might contribute to a world cocoa shortage, some of the ways in which this can be addressed is through improving and modernising technologies used to grow the crop. Increasing farm sizes, managing and mitigating pests of cocoa, increasing incentive to grow cocoa trees, and investing in more effective agri-inputs have all been proposed as ways to address this growing concern.
CABI has several projects ongoing to helping farmers in cocoa-growing regions improve farming techniques and improve the long-term sustainability of growing cocoa in West Africa, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean. If you are interested in cocoa pests, please visit the Plantwise knowledge bank site.
Whenever I am working in Democratic Republic of Congo, I always link up with our partner ESCO, a regional cacao producer and exporter, also active in Uganda. Continue reading
Cocoa, Theobroma cacao L. is the third most important export product in Ecuador; a country which produces 70% of the world’s highly prized Arriba cocoa. However, the sustainability of this crop is threatened by a number of devastating pest species including fungal diseases and insect pests. Among the most severe are the closely related fungal diseases Witches’ Broom Disease Moniliophthora perniciosa and Frosty Pod Rot Moniliophthora roreri, both of which occur in Ecuador. Frosty Pod Rot is an invasive disease which was originally identified in Ecuador in 1917 and has since spread rapidly to other Latin American countries. The fungal pathogen that causes Witches’ Broom Disease is a close relative of Frosty Pod Rot in the same Moniliophthora genus. In addition to the Moniliophthora diseases, Phytophthora spp. can lead to Black Rot of cocoa.These fungal diseases are a principle constraint on world cocoa production and affect the pods, flowers, leaves and stems, causing a decline in production and reduction in bean quality with infested plantations suffering dramatic yield losses and in some cases total loss of production. Breeding for disease resistance in cocoa is a key factor in maintaining sustainability of cocoa, since there is widespread concern over fungicide resistance, the safety and effectiveness of widespread pesticide use and recent tightening of regulations regarding pesticide residues on cocoa. The INIAP, national research institute of Ecuador, in collaboration with Mars Chocolate and the USDA is investing in substantial cocoa breeding programs with the aim of developing more productive, disease resistant, high yielding cocoa plants for Ecuadorian cocoa farmers. Continue reading