In this chapter, the deadly witches’ broom disease is unmasked. Its true identity took considerable time to unravel, but the perseverance of researchers paid off and it turned out that the agent responsible is Moniliophthora perniciosa, a close relative of the frosty pod rot pathogen. The pathogen spread across the northern areas of South America and into the Caribbean, causing devastation from which cacao production in some countries never fully recovered. The major cacao-growing region of Bahia in Brazil remained free of the disease for a long time, but all that changed in the late 1980s. The discovery of witches’ broom there had far-reaching consequences for cacao production in Brazil, effects which are still felt today. This chapter looks at the efforts made to understand the pathogen and the disease it causes, and how this research informs work aimed at tackling the disease.
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