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Macalester College

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Ecuador: Comparative Ecology and Conservation


This study analyzes the composition of three major fungal diseases in Theobroma cacao fruits compared between monocultures and chakra agroforests in the Napo province of Ecuador with the goal of noting similarities and differences in the disease composition between the two systems, as well as investigate possible variation within this poorly understood category of agroforest to better structure future studies. Cacao pods on sampled trees were counted and fungal infections identified visually and by touch. Chakra systems were selected in the communities of Cinco de Enero and Seis de Marzo to the Southwest of Tena, Ecuador. Monoculture data was collected from Chonta Punta, Ecuador, East of Tena. Black pod rot (Phytophthera spp.) was the most prevalent disease affecting cacao pods in chakra systems, followed closely by frosty pod rot (Moniliopthera roreri). Monocultures exhibited significantly lower proportions of black pod rot and instead were dominated by infections of frosty pod rot. Witches’ broom (Moniliopthera perniciosa) was the least present in both. Overall, monocultures had a much lower rate of infection than chakra systems, likely explained by differences in management intensity, lower rainfall, and differences in cacao. More than half of young pods in both systems were lost due to cherelle wilt, a poorly understood physiological condition with tenuous ties to fungal disease. Subvarieties of cacao nacional exhibited little difference in disease composition, with similar slight differences being observed along an age gradient of cacao trees. Overall, these findings suggest that chakra cacao systems in Tena’s climate suffer greater losses to disease than neighboring monocultures to the East under and would benefit from continued research on responsible factors and the increased application of cultural management practices.


Agriculture | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Forest Biology | Indigenous Studies | Latin American Studies | Research Methods in Life Sciences


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