Swiss agricultural testing company SwissDeCode has partnered with the food giant Mars Wrigley to produce a test kit capable of detecting swollen cocoa shoot disease (CSSD) in asymptomatic trees, which in turn should lead to healthier crops with higher yields. The field test kits were developed using SwissDeCode DNA sheet technology, with research into the needs of farmers contributed by Mars Wrigley.
Swollen cocoa shoot disease has always been a thorn in the side of cocoa farmers in West Africa, as it can reduce crop yields by up to 70% and cause the death of large numbers of crops. . The virus that causes disease in cocoa plants is spread by mealybugs and so far it has been difficult to test the virus in asymptomatic plants without a quick method to do so.
There is no cure for infected and symptomatic plants, so one method of easily detecting the disease before it becomes symptomatic – resulting in the death of plants and the displacement or destruction of neighboring trees – is a important way to reduce its impact.
The new testing system allows field staff to test a plant’s leaves for the virus and get results within 60 minutes, instead of waiting years for the plant to become symptomatic. Having a comprehensive knowledge of crop health with respect to disease will allow farmers to use their land more efficiently while reducing deforestation, as the process of planting and destroying cocoa trees is the only method of actively managing the disease. sickness. This will lead to a more sustainable operation for farmers and chocolate producers. The latter can also benefit from lower costs thanks to the induced increase in yields if the adoption of the test kits is generalized.