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Daily Trust

http://allafrica.com/stories/201408141365.html?viewall=1

By Ojoma Akor
Cocoa is a very important cash crop in Ghana and is one of the main contributors to the country’s foreign exchange earnings. But like other crops, it is also plagued by various diseases and pests.

The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) is called Tafo Cocoa Station when it was established in 1938 and later changed its name to the West African Cocoa Research Institute (WACRI) in 1944. It has mandate of conducting research to facilitate improved production of disease-free or disease-resistant cocoa, not only in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) but also in other West African countries which were under British rule, including Nigeria.

However, various countries later established their own research institutions after they gained independence and Ghana renamed WACRI as the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).

The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) was established in Ibadan, Oyo State, on December 1, 1964, as a successor autonomous research organisation to the Nigerian substation of the defunct West African Cocoa Research Institute (WACRI).

According to the Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr Franklin Amoah, the institute was established in 1938 after a farmer observed some unusual symptoms on his cocoa tree as a result of diseases, particularly the swollen shoot disease in 1936.

The institute was established to look into the case and other diseases and pests problems that came up. It later became a centre for research for post-graduate students from different countries.

Amoah said when it comes to research on Cocoa, Ghana and Nigeria have many things in common, adding: “The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria was formerly a substation of our institute until after independence when they decided to be autonomous.

“But since then we have had a lot of collaboration and share a lot of things, including research findings. Virtually every year I travel to Ukraine where I collaborate with the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria,” he told media fellows of the Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA) when they visited the institute in Tafo, Ghana in April.

He said the diseases and pests of cocoa are major problems but the research institute has been doing its best to keep the disease and pests under control, adding that the two major diseases that affect cocoa are the swollen shoot disease and black pod disease.

“As at now, we are managing the swollen shoot disease, we have not found any major cure for it. It is a viral disease. As I speak over two million cocoa trees have been removed, eradicated, cut out and replanted while the breeders are also trying to develop materials which are very resistant or tolerant to the disease.

“We are also putting other agronomic practices to ensure that the spread of the disease is minimised. We have what we call the barrier cropping where core plot of cocoa is surrounded by two or three lines of non host plants.”

He said the swollen shoot is a major cocoa disease in Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo, adding that the symptoms vary with environmental conditions. The symptoms include the swelling of the root or stem, leaf discolouration and death of the trees, thus, affecting crop yields.

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