Cacao Diseases in Central America

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Diseases are the biotic factor with the greatest impact in cacai production in Latin America and the world. In Central America, bacteria, viruses and nematodes do not cause significant problems; instead, fungi and similar organisms are responsible for most of the losses.
Monilians (caused by the fungus Moniliophthora roreri is the desease that cuases the most damage in this region and it id responsible for up to 80%of losses of cacao fruits or pods and the abandoment of many cacao plantations. Next in importance is black pod desease, caused by organisms of the genus Phytophthora, previously classified as fungi but currently prouped with the Kingdom Protista. Black pod can attack different parts of the plant but, like moniliasis, it mainly damages the fruits that contain the product of commercial interest: the cacao seeds.
After a brief introduction to the factors associated with the incidence of cacao diseases, the first part of this publication focuses on the two main diseases that affect cacao fruits: moniliasis and black pod. The emphasis is on the identification of these diseases, this catalog includes photographs of the most characteristic symptoms of the diseases and signs of the fungi. It also provides information about the reproduction and dispersal of their causal agents, life cycles and the measures recommended for controlling them.
The second part of the catalog focuses on diseases that mainly attack parts of the plant other than the fruit, emphasizing their recognition and control. Finally, this publication contains information about witches’ broom, a serious disease present in South America, the Antilles and areas to the south of the Panama Canal, which threatens to spread into Central America. Technicians and farmers should learn to recognize the different symptoms and signs of this disease.

Wilbert Phillips-Mora
Rolando Cerda
The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE)