As change caused by global warming, in addition to

As of right now chocolate is being treated as an unlimited resource, but that is far from the truth. Chocolate’s main ingredient, the versatile cocoa beans, is in danger of going extinct. The Holocene extinction, or the 6th mass extinction caused by humans, is bringing about the extinction of many organisms at alarming rates, and cocoa beans might be one of the victims. The climate change caused by global warming, in addition to diseases targeting the cocoa pod, is wiping out cocoa trees in large batches and at an unprecedented rate. Cocoa beans come from an extremely sensitive tree that can be harmed by various environmental factors, such as a decrease in humidity or an increase in temperature. As global warming continues to raise the temperature around the world, cocoa beans are unable to adapt to the changes and perish unless moved to a more suitable environment. Along with this, fungal diseases are currently tampering with the development of the cocoa beans pods, which are vital to cocoa tree reproduction. Combined with poor farming practices, these factors are threatening global cocoa production and could lead to the end of the existence of cocoa beans.Economic ImportanceCocoa production supports one of the fastest growing markets, the chocolate market. From 2010 being worth at $83.2 billion, the chocolate market has grown to $98.3 billion dollars. Chocolate’s growth is attributed to its increased demand as a luxury item in developed countries. Increased demand has led to many agrarian countries becoming powerhouses in cocoa farming such as Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Even though cocoa is a nonnative crop that has little value in lesser developed countries, many African countries adopt cocoa as a cash crop so it can be exported to larger western manufacturers. Over 50 million people depend on the cocoa market for their income. As of 2016, 42% of Côte d’Ivoire’s exports are cocoa or cocoa related products and for Ghana 18%. Together, these two countries make up more than the majority of cocoa exports. Climate ChangeOne of the most prominent factors causing the decline in cocoa bean production is climate change. Climate change affects the average temperature and humidity of the whole world, which includes the cocoa belt, the range in latitude where cocoa is primarily grown. This change in the environment combined with the sensitive characteristic of cocoa beans leads to a substantial drop in yields. Scientific models based off of climate change have shown that crop suitability for cocoa beans will drastically decrease in almost all areas in West Africa because of the arid weather.  Only in some certain higher elevated regions will there be an increase in crop suitability. The trend described can be seen on the map on the next page, where most of the land of current day used for cocoa production will decrease in suitability by the year 2050.There are two primary solutions, one of which is to move farms upwards in elevation to more suitable climate. However, this method comes with drawbacks, as the higher elevation ground is more uneven than currently used land, and would require more effort to farm. In addition, the new suitable land is established as forest reserves, which leads to the ethical dilemma: should the African governments continue protecting the environment or satisfy the global desire for chocolate and other cocoa products? The second alternative is the use of genome manipulation. By tweaking certain parts of the cocoa’s DNA, scientists could develop a new much more heat resistant cocoa tree that could continue producing cocoa pods at lower elevations. With adequate funding, the plans for genetically modified cocoa could be implemented in the near future. However, even with these alternatives, the decrease of cocoa beans is still a pressing issue.DiseasesIn addition to climate change and the drier environment for cocoa beans, the spread of diseases also poses harm to cocoa tree reproduction and cocoa bean yields. As mentioned earlier, cocoa beans are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment and with diseases interfering; the population of healthy pods could plummet.  As seen on the right there are a variety of complications caused by the environment ranging from fungal infections to parasites. Black pod, as shown the first picture, is one of the most influential diseases on cocoa yields. It kills up to 10% of cocoa trees each year and a yield loss of up to 30%, costing over 430 million dollars. Less common but still prevalent fungus-caused diseases include Witches’ broom (picture 2) and frosty pod. Although symptoms appear differently on cocoa pods, all of these diseases hinder pod growth and contribute to a large portion of cocoa bean production losses globally. Environmental harm is not only limited to diseases for cocoa beans but also includes parasites. Pests such as mirids and cocoa borers feast on the inside of pods ruining the seeds inside. In large plantations of cocoa trees, parasite populations can surge due to the abundance of pods to lay their eggs in. Many of the problems mentioned are caused by poor farming practices and can be solved through physical changes to the farms. Farmers can plant the cocoa trees farther apart to prevent the spread of diseases and plant taller forest trees around cocoa trees to make shade to deter bugs. However, even with these precautions in mind, cocoa growers continue to rely on pesticides and growing cocoa trees in close proximity to maximize their yields and profits, which only amplifies the problem as it leads to more pesticide resistant insects and higher rates of disease transmission.Conclusion    Besides chocolate, there are multiple uses of cocoa beans that people tend to ignore. The beans can be processed into many different cosmetic products like soaps and moisturizers. In addition, cocoa beans are essential to the production of many drinks, such as soda and alcohol. Temperature change, diseases, parasites are all factors that disrupt cocoa beans will affect not only chocolate but a wide spectrum of our daily products. All of these problems have solutions whether it be a complex genetic modification or just planting more trees, but it simply depends on whether if humans will take action or not to help cocoa survive.

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