A permaculture challenge ...

Claude Genest genest at together.net
Mon Jun 4 18:01:48 EDT 2001


Marsha Hanzi wrote this a while back in response to something else. I liked
it then and I like it now...

Dear Friends - maybe you can send this reply back to the source o the
article for me..Thanks.

Dear Sirs:
I would like to give another point of view to the witch´s broom invasion of
the cocoa plantations of Bahia.

The fungus is attacking the cocoa because it was already debilitated by poor
management methods, encouraged by "modern" agriculture, with monocultures,
chemicals etc.  The organic cocoa farms, whose trees are healthy,  are only
slightly affected by the fungus.

I would suggest that the problem is not the universalization of pathogens
but rather the general degeneration of our ago-ecosystems, and even natural
ecosystems.  A healthy plant resists pathogens just as a healthy child
resists disease, even when exposed...We don´t need to combat pathogens, who
have the simple function of cleaning out the system for us ( they are the
janitors), removing weakend plants.  We need to strengthen our agriculture,
bringing back vitality and health which only  organic management can do...

As to Mars( the chocolate company), they are financing a very good
experimental center in Bahia, where the most diverse genetic meterial is
being tested.  I just took them to meet Ernst Gotsch, who has perfected
organic cocoa  management systems, and I believe that there will be a good
hookup from this contact.  So I would say that , far from being indifferent,
Mars is investing  heavily to help farmers find a solution for the general
decadence of the cocoa farms...

 I would argue that this article suffers a basic flaw due to superficial
thinking, confusing outcome with causes...

Sincerely yours,
Marsha Hanzi
Instituto de Permacultura da Bahia

----- Original Message -----
From: <bestworms at usa.net>
To: permaculture <permaculture at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Sunday, April 15, 2001 11:20 AM
Subject: Invasives Mainstreamed (LA Times)

This is an interesting overview, especially since it's in a major newspaper.
Local stewardship is a good stategy to deal with this...anyone see "Men in
Black"? Some aliens are our friends, some will eat us, our plants, and pets.

one love,

Brazil's Cocoa Blight Points to Global Spread of Farm Pests Agriculture:
Although decade-long devastation is leveling off, the mysterious fungus has
taken a heavy toll on nation's economy.


By CHRIS KRAUL, Times Staff Writer

LHEUS, Brazil--The European foot-and-mouth epidemic offers few insights
agricultural devastation that Jose Bardaro doesn't already have. An
airborne pest, a virtual organic neutron bomb, has destroyed his crops and
livelihood and the entire region's economy.

Bardaro and thousands of other cocoa growers in northeastern Brazil have
by helplessly as a mysterious fungus called witch's broom has cut a swath
through their plantations, underscoring the alarming tendency of
pests to leapfrog regions and continents.

Only now is the devastation finally leveling off, 12 years after the fungus
appeared in this corner of Bahia state. Sincethen, a  quarter of a million
farm jobs and $1 billion in annual cocoa exports have been lost--as has a
of life celebrated in the novels of Brazil's best-known writer, Jorge Amado.

'I couldn't sell my land if I wanted to. There is too much debt on it,' said
Bardaro, 68, whose farm produces one-tenth the
                                                   cocoa it did in 1992. To
retrench, Bardaro has fired employees,
                                                   rented out his main
trimmed a lifestyle once marked by
                                                   European and U.S.
and seen his wife go to work in a
                                                   fitness salon.
                                                        How the fungus once
confined to the Amazon conquered the
                                                   former world capital of
cocoa is a mystery. With little
                                                   information about the
fungus' origins, conspiracy theories
                                                   abound. Rival producing
nations, chocolate companies, even the
                                                   Brazilian government are
                                                        Whatever its origin,
the Brazilian cocoa plague is an example
                                                   of how agricultural
especially fungi, have become

                                                   increasingly mobile. In
recent years, an Indian wheat plague has
                                                   invaded California's
Imperial Valley, an African coffee pest has
                                                   ravaged Colombia and
Rica, and an oak tree killer of
                                                   uncertain origin has
to six California counties.
                                                        'With the greater
mobility of people and trade items, it's an
                                                   accelerating process,'
Stephen Rehner, a Department of
                                                   Agriculture scientist in
Beltsville, Md. 'We're moving these
                                                   organisms around the
and every once in a while one will
                                                   find a new susceptible
host, and you get these widespread
                                                        Given the
interconnections of the world through trade and
                                                   tourism, chances are good
that the pace of new agricultural
                                                   epidemics will pick up,
said Joseph Saunders, pest management
                                                   professor at the
for Tropical Agricultural Research and
                                                   Higher Education in
Coronado, Costa Rica.
                                                        'A disease brought
from one area where it is indigenous to
                                                   one where it is exotic is
especially dangerous because there are
                                                   no biological controls or
defenses,' Saunders said.
                                                        Saunders noted that
2,000 new fungus varieties are
                                                   discovered every year,
of them pathogenic. Since fungi are
                                                   so hard to control--as
anybody with lawn mushrooms or athlete's
                                                   foot knows--potential
diseases can quickly devastate entire
                                                        The world's
second-largest cocoa producer as recently as
                                                   1985, Brazil has seen its
production fall so sharply that it
                                                   probably will never
its preeminence. Last year's harvest
                                                   of 124,000 tons is
one-quarter of Brazil's 1985 record and
                                                   one-tenth of leader Ivory
Coast's 1.3-million-ton output last year.
                                                        The economic
devastation is palpable in this once-thriving
                                                   port town now dotted with
empty warehouses and crumbling
                                                   mansions. Its slums are
inhabited by thousands of unemployed
                                                   farm workers who have
the countryside.
                                                        'The cities weren't
ready for them,' said Antonio Zugaib,
                                                   economic development
director for Ilheus. 'The unemployed
                                                   don't consume but need
housing, health services and cause
                                                   crime. Many are living on
biscuits. A culture that lasted two
                                                   centuries is gone.'
                                                        The fungus that has
wrought so much misery causes foliage
                                                   on the tops of cocoa
to shrivel and fruit to spoil. The name
                                                   witch's broom describes
desiccated treetops after the fungus
                                                   has sucked them dry of
moisture. Healthy cocoa fruit resemble
                                                   overgrown avocados in
and are yellow when ripe.
                                                        In pure devastation,
witch's broom could be compared with
                                                   the blight that killed
of the chestnut trees in the U.S. early
                                                   last century; with the
plague that ravaged Caribbean banana
                                                   plantations in the 1940s;
and with Dutch elm disease that ruined
                                                   the leafy tableau of Main
Street U.S.A. in the 1970s.
                                                        All the diseases are
caused by fungi, and all arrived
                                                   mysteriously, taking
few--if any--prisoners.
                                                        Bahia's reversal of
fortune was inconceivable as recently as
                                                   the 1980s, when Ilheus
riding a 100-year wave of wealth
                                                   generated by global
for cocoa and the region's ability to
                                                   supply it.
                                                        Although cocoa had
been grown throughout much of Latin
                                                   America for centuries,
cocoa plantations proliferated here in the
                                                   late 19th century after
fruit trees were found to thrive on
                                                   southern Bahia's rich
80 inches of annual rainfall and forest
                                                        Used mainly for
chocolate flavoring and cosmetics, cocoa in
                                                   whole or pressed seeds or
liquid extract was soon being shipped
                                                   from Ilheus to all

of the globe. The demand gave rise to
                                                   storied wealth among
'colonels,' the feudal barons who
                                                   ruled northern Brazil and
whose lusty lives inspired Amado.
                                                        Brazil lost its lead
in cocoa in the 1950s to Ivory Coast,
                                                   which now supplies 45% of
world demand.
                                                        By the early 1980s,
Bahia had begun to feel the effects of
                                                   global competition,
especially from expanding farms in
                                                   equatorial Africa.
                                                        As prices fell, doom
knocked on Bahia's door in 1989 when
                                                   witch's broom appeared.
fungus is now present on 98% of
                                                   the state's cocoa farms.
Bardaro said infestation has been 'total'
                                                   on his 1,000-acre farm
since 1996.
                                                        The pervasiveness of
the fungus caused cocoa shipments
                                                   abroad to fall to
zero, with domestic production now
                                                   just enough to meet the
nation's needs. In 1988, Brazil's $1
                                                   billion in cocoa exports
represented 6% of the nation's total
                                                        Despite widespread
rancor, there is consensus among
                                                   officials, traders and
some growers that the fight against the
                                                   fungus is finally showing
some success. Nine varieties of
                                                   fungus-resistant grafts
have been made on traditional cocoa trees,
                                                   such as one called
developed in Trinidad. Bardaro has
                                                   two such grafts on his
                                                        'Cocoa production
not improved yet, but it has stopped
                                                   falling,' said Luis
Fernando Brandao, a cocoa trader and grower
                                                   based in Salvador, the
capital of Bahia state 125 miles north of
                                                        Brandao's guarded
optimism is borne out by market research
                                                   done by ED&F Man
a major London-based
                                                   commodities trader, which
predicts that countrywide production
                                                   may even increase a bit
this year to 126,000 tons.
                                                        It doesn't help the
growers' cause that cocoa prices are near
                                                   50-year lows, with the
world glutted by production from African
                                                   and East Asian suppliers,
which have stepped into the breach
                                                   created by Brazil's
                                                        Nor is there any
clamoring for Brazilian cocoa among
                                                   international buyers,
as Hershey Foods or Mars, once
                                                   Brazil's two biggest
customers. A Hershey spokesman said the
                                                   roasting and mixing of
cocoa--not its country of origin--are the
                                                   critical factors in its
candy's flavor.
                                                        To gather political
support, the cocoa industry is trying to
                                                   align itself with
environmentalists campaigning to protect the
                                                   Mata Atlantica, the
remnants of Brazil's primeval Atlantic
                                                   Forest, one of the
most biologically diverse, said
                                                   Wallace Setenta, director
of the National Council of Cocoa
                                                   Growers in nearby

                                                        Cocoa cultivation
works to preserve the forest because of the
                                                   fruit trees' need for
from larger, older trees. Bardaro's
                                                   plantation is covered
stately 150-foot-high jequitiba, aderno,
                                                   araca and conduru trees,
species that are unique to the region.
                                                        But neighboring
farmers, cut off from their livelihood by the
                                                   plague, are clearing
forests to raise coffee or cattle. An estimated
                                                   5% of the forest that
covered the cocoa-growing region is
                                                   gone, said Zugaib, the
economic development director.
                                                        Bardaro is

understandably jaded about the latest purported
                                                   fix. But, fondling a
healthy and maturing cocoa fruit that hangs
                                                   shoulder-high from a
grafted tree on his hilly estate, he allows
                                                   himself a small portion
                                                        Bardaro, warily
checking for signs of infestation in the
                                                   8-foot-tall tree, says he
has little choice. He has tried switching
                                                   to flower growing and
farming with no success, blaming
                                                   the hilly terrain and
                                                        'I'm not convinced
will work. The resistance to the fungus
                                                   could break down,' said
Bardaro, a third-generation cocoa
                                                   planter whose grandfather
inspired a character in an Amado
                                                   novel about feuding cocoa
barons. 'But we are giving it a

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> From: Sharon Gordon <gordonse at one.net>
> Reply-To: "permaculture" <permaculture at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
> Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 15:48:28 -0400
> To: "permaculture" <permaculture at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
> Subject: A permaculture challenge for a tomato virus
> In a fierce battle on the tomato growers list between the group who
> likes to grow organically and the group who thinks the more Roundup
> and other poisons the better, I tossed in a rational, reasoned response
> on the advantages of permaculture and balanced gardening so that
> food and everything else can be grown without poison.
> One of the biggest poisoners said he was willing to try it if there was
> some way he could grow tomatoes in Florida despite the
> TYLCV virus (Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus).  This virus can
> easily kill all of a person's tomato plants.  It's a serious problem
> in Florida and in Israel.
> Does anyone have any suggestions for dealing with this or know
> of Florida/Israeli permaculturists who have come up with a
> system/design that allows them to grow tomatoes?
> Sharon
> gordonse at one.net
> ---
> You are currently subscribed to permaculture as: genest at together.net
> To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-permaculture at franklin.oit.unc.edu
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