I love chocolate – I really do – but we take it for granted that it will always appear on the shelves of our local shops. Most of us are oblivious to the many pests and disease that are attacking cocoa plants around the world and the work of farmers and researchers to fight against them – cocoa is afterall big business. The latest issue of GRO-Cocoa, a twice-yearly cocoa newsletter funded by the US Department of Agriculture and published by CABI, includes articles about 2 strands of research offering hope for controlling insect pests and diseases in West Africa – source of 80% of the world’s cocoa:
1. Research in Ghana shows how weaver ants could be exploited to control cocoa mirids and other insect pests – this reduces pesticide use and its associated impacts on human health and the environment.
2. CIRAD have identified new sources of disease resistance in wild cocoa in French Guiana, which is now being used to breed clones with better resistance for the fungus Phytophthora megakarya in West Africa, and for local strains of the disease in French Guiana.