Plant diseases threaten chocolate production worldwide

St. Paul, MN (June 5, 2006) - Chocolate lovers, beware. Each year 20 percent of the cacao beans that are used to make chocolate are lost to plant diseases, but even greater losses would occur if important diseases spread.

"Plant diseases are the most important constraints to cacao production and the continued viability of the world's confectionary trades," said Randy Ploetz, plant pathology professor at the University of Florida, Homestead, FL. Currently, 4 million metric tons of beans worth more than $4 billion are produced each year. The global chocolate market is worth $75 billion annually.

According to Ploetz, the three most important and damaging cacao diseases are black pod, frosty pod, and witches' broom. Black pod occurs worldwide and has the largest impact, while frosty pod and witches' broom are restricted to tropical America.

"Frosty pod and witches' broom would devastate cacao production in West Africa, where almost 70 percent of all production occurs," said Ploetz. "In this region, either disease could reduce yields by an additional one million more metric tons per year," he said.

New insights and current research on cacao diseases, as well as resistance to and management of the diseases, will be addressed during the Cacao Diseases: Important Threats to Chocolate Production Worldwide symposium held July 30 from 1:30-5 p.m., during the joint annual meeting of The American Phytopathological Society, Canadian Phytopathological Society, and the Mycological Society of America. The joint meeting will be held July 29–August 2, 2006, at the Centre des Congrès de Québec, Québec City, Québec, Canada.

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More information on the meeting is available at http://meeting.apsnet.org. Members of the media are extended complimentary registration to the annual meeting. To register, contact Amy Steigman at asteigman@scisoc.org or +1.651.994.3802.

The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a non-profit, professional scientific organization. The research of the organization's 5,000 worldwide members advances the understanding of the science of plant pathology and its application to plant health. The Canadian Phytopathological Society (CPS) is a scientific society that was formed in 1929 as a nonprofit organization to enable plant pathologists to meet and discuss their common interests in teaching and research of plant diseases. The Mycological Society of America (MSA) is a scientific society dedicated to advancing the science of mycology--the study of fungi of all kinds including mushrooms, molds, truffles, yeasts, lichens, plant pathogens, and medically important fungi.


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