Jamaica facing a threat to its cocoa trees

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The Jamaican government is asking citizens to reports all suspected cases of frosty pod rot, the Gleaner reports.

Frosty pod rot only affects the pods, but is one of the most potentially devastating diseases affecting cocoa.

Highly contagious, it leads to rotting of the pod within three months of infestation, and if left unchecked, could wipe out between 70 and 80 per cent of a cocoa tree’s production.

So, with Jamaica’s cocoa ranked among the top five in the world in the fine-flavoured list, the confirmation of the disease at a farm in Clarendon is cause for concern. Local farmers earned an estimated $422.3 million from the sale of cocoa between 2011 and 2016, with US$7.68 million in export earnings.

The disease, caused by the fungus Moniliophthora roreri, invades cocoa pods, damaging them and the seeds within. This is manifested in the young pods, showing light-yellow swellings and sometimes becoming distorted. The seed mass may also become soft and watery, according to information provided by the Research and Development Division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.

Older pods show generally large necrotic (dead), dark-brown spots with irregular borders. Partial or total premature ripening occurs, and internally, seeds become reddish brown. As the disease advances, most of the necrotic surface becomes covered by a whitish fungal growth.

It is for this reason that the agriculture ministry is appealing to any and everyone who sees any symptoms resembling frosty pod rot to report it immediately to the relevant authorities. These include:

– Cocoa Industry Board – 923-6411

– Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) – 977-1158-62; toll free – 1-888-275-7232

– Research and Development Division – 983-2267

– Plant Quarantine Protection Unit – 588-5844

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