Fungus Ravages Jembrana Cocoa Crops

JEMBRANA

Plantation owners in Jembrana are seeing their cocoa bushes devastated by a fungal infection known as vascular-streak dieback (VSD), which causes branches to wither and die and ruins harvests.

Around 60 hectares of plantation land in Melaya, Pekutakan and Mendoyo districts has been affected.

Gusti Ayu Fransiska Kusumadewi, an environmental activist and a biotechnology researcher at Bali’s Udayana University, said the disease was hard to eradicate once it got into the cocoa bushes.

“The VSD which is attacking dozens of hectares owned by farmers is due to the recent extremes in climate change which mean that the humidity levels aren’t stable, allowing the deadly fungus to attack,” she said.

“A lot of farmers are losing out because their bushes have died or their harvests have been disturbed,” she said, adding that once VSD infected a plantation it was difficult to get rid of.

“The sad thing is that the local government can’t really do anything about this disease. They can just recommend trimming the infected trees,” Kusamadewi said, adding that some plantation owners in Jembrana were already switching from cocoa to coconut palm which, while far less lucrative, were more hardy and were not susceptible to VSD.

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