(BIVN) – Cacoa, the fruit used to produce chocolate, is getting some help from the County of Hawaiʻi.
During its May 21 meeting in Hilo, the Hawaiʻi County Council approved a resolution to provide $9,900 to the University of Hawai‘i for its East Hawai‘i Cacao Variety Trial program to determine varieties with high yields and resistance to Black Pod Rot.
According to information provided by CTAHR, the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources:
Black pod rot of cacao is caused by a pathogen in the genus Phytophthora, literally translated as the “plant destroyer.” This is the same genus responsible for the Irish potato famine of 1845–1852. These pathogens were originally classified as fungi but have since been reclassified into the kingdom Stramenopila. There are more than 80 species of Phytophthora that cause plant diseases, of which several, including P. palmivora, P. megakarya, P. citrophora, and P. capsici, are responsible for black pod rot of cacao. Phytophthora spp. are responsible for pod loss of 20 to 30% of the total cacao crop annually, though some plantations have lost up to 90% of their pods due to the disease. Cankers caused by the pathogen may kill up to 10% of all trees each year (Acebo-Guerrero 2012). In Hawai‘i, it is P. palmivora that causes the disease. This species attacks over 150 host plant species in the tropics, although strains of P. palmivora may infect only one or several host plants.
“This is a an opportunity to screen for black pod fungal resistance, as this
cacao industry is fairly young and starting to take hold and expanding,” said Glenn Sako, the agricultural specialist for the County Department of Research and Development. “The University of Hawaiʻi is taking a proactive approach and not waiting until this dreaded disease wrecks havoc on yield and mortality of the plants. They want to start their screening of 10 varieties. At least two of them, they know, shows promise to show some resistance. [They are] also looking for yield to support the economic threshold of the crop.”