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Cocoa’s Bitter Enemy: Understanding the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus and its Management

Cocoa, also known as the cocoa bean, is a tropical crop that is primarily grown for its seeds, which are used to produce cocoa powder and chocolate. The scientific name of the cocoa tree is Theobroma cacao, which means “food of the gods” in Greek. The crop is cultivated primarily in West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. In West Africa, Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two largest producers of cocoa.
As West Africa is the world’s largest producer of cocoa, the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV) is also endemic there.

In West Africa, it is estimated to cause annual losses of up to $100 million in cocoa production. It is a major threat to cocoa production in West and Central Africa, where up to 30% of cocoa trees may be infected.

CSSV causes Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) in cocoa trees. It is a devastating disease that causes stunted growth, yellowing of leaves, and swollen stems in cocoa trees.

The CSSV is transmitted by several species of mealybugs, which are small insects that feed on plant sap. It can infect cocoa plants at any stage of development. The disease causes a wide range of symptoms depending on the strain of the virus, the stage of infection, and the susceptibility of the cocoa variety.

The symptoms can include reddening of primary veins or ‘banding’ in young leaves, yellow banding along the main veins of leaves, veins clearing in leaves, sometimes producing a ‘fern like’ pattern, Chlorosis, or the flecking and mottling of mature leaves, Stem and root swellings (some mild strains of the virus do not cause swellings in infected plants) and abnormally shaped pods, usually smaller and spherical. These symptoms can lead to reduced yields and even the death of the infected trees.

As viral pathogens are hard to control, there has been no known cure for the disease until now.

When there is no cure, the only solution is prevention.

One way to manage CSSVD is through the use of disease-resistant cocoa varieties. However, these varieties are not always available or suitable for a particular region. Another way to manage CSSVD is through the use of crop protection products that can prevent or control the spread of the disease.

Bio-Pesticides, Azadirachtin 0.3% and Beauveria bassiana from Peptech Biosciences Ltd., are found to have potential for managing CSSVD. We have conducted a trial for managing CSSVD with Azadirachtin 0.3% and Beauveria bassiana at Ivory Coast. These are broad-spectrum Bio-Pesticides  that can be applied as a foliar spray or soil drenching. When applied preventively, it prevented healthy cocoa plants from becoming infected with CSSVD. When applied curatively, it has reduced the mealybug population and prevented disease transmission.

To control CSSVD , 3-5 ml per liter of Azadirachtin 0.3% was sprayed to the foliage and trunk region of the cocoa plants, and Beauveria bassiana at the rate of 5 g per liter was applied via soil drench. The application of both Bio Pesticides resulted in effectively controlling the vector mealy bug and preventing the spread of disease.

Overall, cocoa is an important agricultural crop in West Africa. The major threat to cocoa production is cocoa swollen shoot virus disease, and the use of Azadirachtin 0.3% and Beauveria bassiana from Peptech Biosciences Ltd. can be an effective tool in the management of CSSVD in cocoa production.

Peptech Biosciences Ltd. was established in 2017 with the goal of providing high-quality crop solutions to farmers worldwide. We also provide Bio-Stimulants, Bio-Fertilizers, Plant Growth Regulators, Micro-Nutrient Fertilizers, and many other products in addition to Bio-Pesticides.