Improving Management of Cocoa Pod Borer- A regional workshop organized by Mars, ICCRI, ACIAR and WCF

Demand for cocoa is soaring around the world – growing 2 to 3 percent each year. Perhaps nowhere is that growth stronger than in Asia, particularly in China and India.  Given the demand, the ability to grow cocoa locally in the South East Asia region is especially important.

One of the keys to improved yield and quality over the short-term in South East Asia is better pest management – especially of Cocoa Pod Borer (CPB).  The challenges associated with CPB are enormous and the economic impact on local farmers can be devastating. It is thought that CPB has jumped from a crop like rambutan to cocoa, with the most recent outbreak occurring in Papua New Guinea.

Mars Chocolate, in partnership with the Indonesia Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the World Cocoa Foundation, hosted a recent workshop on CPB in Bali, Indonesia.  The goal of the meeting was to discuss what is currently known about CPB, and to talk about best practices and new efforts in the region to help control the pest. We invited nearly 60 individuals – including researchers from Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, and other experts from Europe, Australia and the United States.

It was an incredibly successful two-day meeting. With all of our partners and participants we conducted a thorough review of the most effective control methods currently being implemented – such as pruning, sleeving, sanitation, spraying, more frequent harvesting, biocoating and husk disposal. The need for well managed cocoa farms with small-pruned trees is especially important to manage and control CPB. Many farmers spray their cocoa trees to control CPB and the need for controlled pesticide use – the appropriate chemical at the right time – came up as a frequent topic of discussion.

We also discussed new innovations showing promise, such as resistant cocoa varieties in Indonesia and Malaysia where several clones are currently under evaluation.  In addition, we debated the use of composting and  fertilizer to grow stronger trees more capable of resisting the disease. Ants have also been used successfully in some locations.

While much progress is being made, the workshop also identified a number of gaps where more work is needed.  More development work on artificial diets for CPB study, new insecticides, a reappraisal of pheromones, and the use of the host plant kairomones are all efforts that have the potential to dramatically alter the impact of CPB. We are also working with countries like Vietnam, which is currently CPB free, for what they might do to prepare in case CPB shows up on cocoa farms there.

We concluded the meeting by identifying new areas for future work, along with the groups that would develop the projects and proposals for further study.  Given the size and scale of the challenge, we agreed to hold an annual meeting with what will now be known as the Asia Cocoa IPM Group.

  

CPB is a major economic threat for cocoa farmers and Mars Chocolate and our partners are committed to developing the innovations, resources and collaboration necessary to most effectively combat this pest. Smilja Lambert and I would like to thank the following; the participants, ICCRI, ACIAR, and WCF for support, Alex Viljoen (Mars) for organisation, and Cocoa Paper  for the conference notebooks and nametags.

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