A Fungus Threatens Chocolate Industry

Published Date : Mar 22, 2016

Chocolate production might get hit soon if a fungus has its way. According to scientists, a fungus that is impacting the cacao pods could be cloning itself rather than sexually reproducing. The fungus leads to frosty pod rot that can decrease the cacao plantations. The fungus, known as Moniliophthora roreri, is suspected to clone itself. Earlier, researchers and cacao producers were of the opinion that the fungus was reproducing sexually as it belongs to the group of fungi that produces mushrooms. 

Frosty Cacao Pod Rot Caused by a Fungus That Might be Cloning

Cocoa is one of the major crops produced by small farms. Volatility in the prices of cocoa makes it risky for the farm owners to invest in fungicides. The cocoa producers usually monitor their crop for the symptoms of frosty pod rot. Once detected, they bury the pods that show white dusting or dark lesions. In the last 60 years, the fungal disease has spread due to the accidental transportation of infected pods. Across some of the areas, frosty pod rot has decimated the cocoa yields by 100%. This has led cocoa producers to abandon their plantations. Researchers are taking special interest in the growth of this fungus to find out a remedy for the fungal infection in cacao pods.

In the recent study, researchers have studied the genomics and population genetics of the fungus. The fungus is unusual as it might be cloning itself. Further studies on this fungus are expected to be economically and biologically valuable to reduce the disease’s damage to cocoa production. According to Jorge Diaz-Valderrama, a doctoral student at the Purdue University, biochemical components are being identified to control frosty pod rot.