Over 100 farmers in the Assin Fosu Municipality of the Central Region have had their farms infected with swollen shoot disease.
According to the Agric Department of the municipality, a total of 200 hectares of cocoa plantations have been affected so far by the disease.
The Municipal Officer of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD, Mr.Isaac Sarfo Afram, made this known in an interview with the media at Assin Fosu.
He disclosed that the affected farms would be destroyed by COCOBOD and the farmers compensated with GHC1000. 00 per hectare to prevent it from spreading to other farms.
COCOBOD, he indicated will employ weeding labourers to weed the affected farms within a specific period and later plant high yielding cocoa seedlings that do not take more than three years to harvest.
Plantain suckers will also be planted to serve as a shade for the cocoa plants to blossom.
Mr Afram said the cocoa rehabilitation under Productivity Enhancement Programme (PEP), initiated by the government was to cut down and replant diseased and over-aged cocoa farms to boost output and returns.
He, therefore, called for improvement on awareness and sensitisation drive to enable more farmers to embrace it saying, evidence showed that farmers who allowed their farms to be worked on were yielding results.
“The PEP aims to check further spread of the diseases and help restore the affected cocoa farms to their original states to boost yields,” he noted.
Cocoa swollen shoot disease
Cocoa swollen shoot disease (CSSD) is caused by the Cacao swollen shoot virus (CSSV) of genus Badnavirus (Lot et al., 1991); family Badnaviridae).
The disease is one of the most devastating scourges of cocoa that in the 1940s threatened to wipe out the cocoa industry in what is now Ghana.
Cacao swollen shoot virus is a plant pathogenic virus of the family Caulimoviridae that primarily infects cacao trees. It decreases cacao yield within the first year of infection and usually kills the tree within a few years.
Symptoms vary by strain of the virus, but leaf discoloration, leaf chlorosis (interveinal), root necrosis, red vein banding in young leaves, small mottled pods, stem/root swelling followed by die-back generally occur.
The virus is transmitted from tree to tree by mealybug vectors.
It was first discovered in Ghana in 1936 and is currently endemic in Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria.
Over 200 million trees have already been claimed by this disease, which has prompted Ghana to launch the most ambitious and costly eradication effort of any country in the world against the viral plant disease.
Within one year of infection yields decrease by 25%, and within two years by 50%. The trees are usually killed within 3 to 4 years.
CSSV has also been isolated from alternative hosts Cola chlamydanta, Ceiba pentandra, Adansonia digitata, Cola gigantean, and Sterculia tragacantha.
These alternate hosts display the same symptoms as infected cacao trees, but with less severity.
Symptoms also vary with environmental conditions. Neither nutrition nor temperature changes have a perceivable effect on symptoms, but increased light intensity inhibits the development of root/stem swellings in infected plants.
Shaded cacao trees exhibit decreased growth and slightly more severe symptoms.
CSSV is primarily transmitted by mealybugs. These mealybugs have a mutualistic relationship with ants which provide protection in return for sugar exudates.
Fourteen species of mealybugs within the family Pseudoccidae act as vectors for CSSV, but Planococcoides njalensis and Planococcus citri are the most important mealybug vectors.
Transmission is semi-persistent, meaning that the virus is taken up into the vector’s circulatory system, but does not replicate within it.
The feeding period required for the acquisition of the virus is, at minimum, 20 minutes, but optimally 2–4 days.
Once acquired, the virus can be transmitted within 15 minutes, but optimal transmission occurs 2–10 hours after acquisition. No transmission of the virus occurs through the mealybug eggs.
Although primarily transmitted by mealybugs, CSSV can also be mechanically transmitted, through wounds. A recent study has found that CSSV can also be transmitted by seed.