Ghana makes progress in developing Black-Pod resistant cocoa seeds

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A 25-year-long project to tackle Black-Pod disease in cocoa farms is entering the third phase with signs of progress.

The project, Marbang Megakarya Selection Programme (MMSP) was initiated in 2005 to introduce an advanced breeding approach to develop improved planting materials in Ghana for high yields of good quality cocoa.

The major objective is to identify cocoa clones that are high-yielding in the presence of the megakarya organism, which is the causative organism of black-pod disease.

The disease can cause 100 per cent crop loss within a short time.

It is expected to improve the output of Ghana’s existing and planned seed gardens through the use of superior pollen parents.

The objective of the programme is to produce at least five promising cocoa clones that will produce high-yielding cocoa pods so that farmers will not have to worry about the incidence of Black Pod disease on their farms.

Senior Scientist at the Cocoa Research Institute, Enoch Kwame Nsiah, says the move will guarantee the sustainable supply of cocoa beans to the international market.

“The new cocoa variety will withstand the dreadful megakarya organism. The more the Black Pod incidence, the less cocoa the farmer takes home. That is what we want to avoid,” he said.

He revealed this when members of the Ghana Agriculture and Rural Development Journalist Association (GARDJA) visited the research institute.

The tour is to expose journalists to the research being done to enhance Ghana’s declining cocoa production in recent times.

It is a sequel to a two-day training programme by the members on cocoa sustainability.

The new variety should as well be high yielding with other new desirable qualities that could help to substantially improve Ghana’s production.

The research being carried out in three phases is being supported by both local and international development partners.

The third phase of the project is about to commence with a proposed budget of 5 million euros for the period of five years.

Cocobod takes care of 52 percent of the budget and other international organisations support with other funds and resources to run the 25-year programme.

The donors and international partners are very much interested in the sustainable supply of cocoa beans to the world market.

It is to ensure they have raw materials to feed their chocolate industries.

“The health benefits of cocoa are overwhelming and so nobody wants to run out of cocoa so they are putting in resources to ensure a sustainable supply. Once you have a high-yielding variety that is not susceptible to diseases and pests then you are guaranteed the sustainable supply of cocoa beans,” Senior Scientist at the Cocoa Research Institute, Enoch Kwame Nsiah

The research, involves budding and grafting of cocoa planting materials obtained from cocoa farms in the country and that the project is one of the few of its kind in the world.

With thirteen more years to finish the research, the project has already crossed fifty person of its target line.

Mr. Nsiah believes they are on track to develop improved Black-Pod resistant clonal varieties of seeds.

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