Theobroma cacao, is a tropical fruit tree native to South America that belong to the family of Malvaceae and was probably first cultivated in approximately ad 250–900 by the ancient Maya civilization. The Olmecs and Mayans believed that cacao was of divine origin as Theobroma means “food” (from the Greek broma) "of the gods" (from the Greek theo), and cacao is derived from the Aztec Nahuatl word xocolatl, from xococ (bitter) and atl (water). Fresh seeds of cocoa are covered by a large amount of mucilage, which plays important ecological roles and economically are used to make cocoa powder, cocoa butter and chocolate. In addition, the seeds also contain polyphenols and flavonoids that possess myriad health benefits. Theobroma cacao is a diploid species with 10 pairs of chromosomes with estimated genome size of 430 Mb.
The cocoa pod borer (Conopomorpha cramerella) is a moth of the Gracillariidae family. It is known from Saudi Arabia, China, India (West Bengal, Andaman Islands), Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia (Sumatra, Sulawesi, Papua, Papua Barat, Java, Kalimantan, Moluccas), Malaysia (Peninsula, Sarawak, Sabah), Vietnam, Australia, New Britain, the Philippines, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Vanuatu.
The larvae feed on Cynometra cauliflora, Swietenia species, Dimocarpus longan, Litchi chinensis, Nephelium lappaceum, Nephelium litchi, Nephelium malainse, Nephelium mutabile, Pometia species (including Pometia pinnata), Cola species and Theobroma cacao. The larvae tunnel into the center of the fruit, where they feed on the seeds for about two to three weeks. They chew their way out of the fruit to pupate.
Oncobasidium theobromae basidiomycete was recognized as the cause of a catastrophic cacao disease called vascular-streak dieback (VSD). VSD has created huge losses among cacao seedlings and kills branches in mature cacao trees across Southeast Asia. O. theobromae is a highly specialized, near-obligate parasite of cocoa. It is a windborne, leaf-penetrating, vascular pathogen and may have developed as an endophyte on an indigenous host that has not yet been identified. The rate of disease spread on cocoa is restricted as basidiocarps grow during wet weather only on new leaf scars, and basidiospores stay viable the night they are shed for a few hours.
The rotting of cacao pods caused by Phytophthora palmivora is referred to as black-pod disease and the disease is quite serious in areas with high rainfall and prolonged humid environment. P. palmivora is an oomycete that was initially categorized as fungi but was reclassified into the Stramenopila kingdom. P. palmivora is accounted for the loss of pods up 20 to 30% of the total crop annually, although some farms have lost up to 90% of their pods due to the disease. Every year, cankers induced by this pathogen can destroy up to 10% of the trees. P. palmivora has four kinds of spores which can cause infection directly or indirectly: sporangia, zoospores, oospores, and chlamydospores. Sporangia are produced from infected fruit, leaves, stems, or roots. They can germinate directly on the plant surface or on the ground and are capable of producing zoospores.