Cacao Diseases pp 307-335 | Cite as

Vascular Streak Dieback (Ceratobasidium theobromae): History and Biology

  • Peter McMahonEmail author
  • Agus Purwantara


Vascular streak dieback (VSD) caused by the basidiomycete, Ceratobasidium theobromae (syn. Oncobasidium theobromae, Thanatephorus theobromae), is one of the most important diseases of cacao in the Southeast Asian/Melanesian region, causing branch dieback with infections capable of killing seedlings and mature trees of susceptible cacao varieties. The only known host is Theobroma cacao, but as a new encounter disease it is apparent that the fungus transferred to cacao from an original host, endemic to the region, which so far remains unidentified. Basidiospores that initiate infection are short-lived and dispersed by wind only for short distances. VSD is patchy in distribution but can be severe locally and, recently in Indonesia, has influenced farmers to convert to crops other than cacao. In Malaysia this disease, among other factors, influenced growers to replace cacao with oil palm. The causal pathogen and disease symptoms were first described in Papua New Guinea following a severe epidemic in the 1960s: a unique wind-dispersed basidiomycete pathogen was identified that infected young leaves of cacao seedlings and mature trees, colonizing the xylem and resulting, after about 3 months, in characteristic symptoms of leaf chlorosis, leaf fall, and branch dieback or seedling mortality. Sporulation was observed to occur on the monilioid hyphae emerging from leaf scars. Quite recently, within the last decade, symptoms of leaf marginal and tip necrosis, associated with a longer period of attachment before leaf abscission, have become dominant, replacing the formerly characteristic chlorotic symptoms. As a consequence of delayed abscission, sporulation now frequently occurs on hyphae emerging through cracks in the petiole or leaf mid-rib. The pathogen associated with the newer symptoms, C. theobromae, appears morphologically and genetically identical to the species previously described. However, haplotypes based on ITS sequences have been identified within the region, indicating that some regional genetic variability occurs. Just as in VSD-infected cacao displaying chlorotic symptoms, infections associated with the more recent (necrotic) symptoms spread from initially infected leaves via the xylem to neighboring leaves and, in more susceptible genotypes, reach the tip causing dieback. The two sets of symptoms (chlorotic and necrotic) may occur in the same area and even on the same tree, and their relative frequency is influenced by the season. At higher altitudes and in some genotypes the former symptoms of leaf chlorosis are predominant. Disease severity also decreases with altitude. It remains uncertain whether the recent increase in VSD severity in Sulawesi, East Java, and other areas in the region is linked to the new symptoms. Since the incubation period for the disease is long (3 months or more) it is important to keep seedlings in quarantine for about 6 months before distribution for planting in other locations. As C. theobromae is a vascular pathogen, control by fungicides is difficult, and although effective systemic triazole fungicides have been identified, they are generally too costly for smallholder farmers. The disease is best controlled by sanitation pruning and the adoption of resistant genotypes. Further work is under way to combine resistance with other characteristics such as superior cacao bean quality and yield.


Infected Leaf Cacao Planting Necrotic Symptom Leaf Scar Chlorotic Symptom 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was made possible with funding by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Susanna Bryceson and Ayu Parawansa have both prepared theses on the incidence and clonal responses to VSD on farms in Sulawesi making valuable contributions, as has Amanda Firmansyah in the laboratory. Our thanks to our project partners in Indonesia, including Agung Susilo, Indah Anita-Sari, Febrillia, Nurlaila, Sahardi Mulia, Ade Rosmana, and Danny Rahim, who continue to attempt to address the problems faced by farmers dealing with VSD.


  1. Abdoellah, S. (2009). The effect of vascular streak dieback (VSD) attack on macronutrients content of cocoa leaves. Proceedings of the 16th International Cocoa Research Conference. Cocoa Producers’ Alliance (COPAL), Bali, Indonesia, 16–21 November, 2009.Google Scholar
  2. Abraham, C. S. (1981). Vascular-streak dieback of cocoa in India. Indian Cocoa, Arecanut and Spices Journal, 4, 119–120.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, R. D. (1989). Avocado an alternate host for Oncobasidium theobromae. Australasian Plant Pathology, 18, 96–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anita-Sari, I., & Susilo, A. W. (2014). Effect of genetic and altitudinal difference on stomata characters as resistance indicators to vascular-streak dieback (VSD) in cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.). Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology, 4, 157–163.Google Scholar
  5. Bong, C. L. (1989). A method for quantifying and indexing VSD severity. Sabah State Department of Agriculture Technical Bulletin, pp. 8–11.Google Scholar
  6. Bowers, J. H., Bailey, B. A., Hebbar, P. K., Sanogo, S., & Lumsden, R. D. (2001). The impact of plant diseases on world chocolate production. Plant Health Progress. doi: 10.1094/PHP-2001-0709-01-RV.Google Scholar
  7. Bridgeland, L. A., Richardson, J. M., & Edwards, I. L. (1966). Dieback diseases of cacao (Part 1). South Pacific Planter, 1, 13–20.Google Scholar
  8. Chong, C. F., & Shepherd, R. (1986). Promising Prang Besar clones. In E. Pushparajah & P. S. Chew (Eds.), Cocoa and coconuts: Progress and outlook (pp. 3–20). Kuala Lumpur: Incorporated Society of Planters.Google Scholar
  9. de Oliveira, G. A. P., Pereira, E. G., Dias, C. V., Souza, T. L. F., Ferretti, G. D. S., Cordeiro, Y., Camillo, L. R., Cascardo, J., Almeida, F. C., Valente, A. P., & Silva, J. L. (2012). Moniliophthora perniciosa Necrosis- and Ethylene-Inducing Protein 2 (MpNep2) as a metastable dimer in solution: Structural and functional implications. PLoS One, 7, e45620.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Dennis, J. J. C., Holderness, M., & Keane, P. J. (1992). Weather patterns associated with sporulation of Oncobasidium theobromae on cocoa. Mycological Research, 96, 31–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Efron, Y., Marfu, J., Faure, M., & Epaina, P. (2002). Screening of segregating cocoa genotypes for resistance to vascular-streak dieback under natural conditions in Papua New Guinea. Australasian Plant Pathology, 31, 315–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Emechebe, A. M., Leakey, C. L. A., & Banage, W. B. (1971). Verticiullium wilt of cocoa in Uganda: Symptoms and establishment of pathogenicity. Annals of Applied Biology, 69, 223–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Garcia, O., Macedo, J. A. N., Tiburcio, R., Zaparoli, G., Rincones, J., Bittencourt, L. M. C., Ceita, G. O., Micheli, F., Gesteira, A., Mariano, A. C., Schiavinato, M. A., Medrano, F. J., Meinhardt, L. W., Pereira, G. A. G., & Cascardo, J. C. M. (2007). Characterization of necrosis and ethylene-inducing proteins (NEP) in the basidiomycete Moniliophthora perniciosa, the causal agent of witches’ broom in Theobroma cacao. Mycological Research, 111, 443–455.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Guest, D. I., & Keane, P. J. (2007). Vascular-streak dieback: A new encounter disease of cacao in Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia caused by the obligate Basidiomycete Oncobasidium theobromae. Phytopathology, 97, 1654–1657.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Himelblau, E., & Amasino, R. M. (2001). Nutrients mobilized from leaves of Arabidopsis thaliana during leaf senescence. Journal of Plant Physiology, 158, 1317–1323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hodges, C. F., & Campbell, D. A. (1999). Endogenous ethane and ethylene of Poa pratensis leaf blades and leaf chlorosis in response to biologically active products of Bipolaris sorokiniana. European Journal of Plant Pathology, 105, 825–829.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Holderness, M. (1990). Control of Vascular-Streak Dieback of cocoa with triazole fungicides and the problem of phytotoxicity. Plant Pathology, 39, 286–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Holliday, P. (1980). Fungus diseases of tropical crops. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Isaac, S. (1992). Fungal-plant interactions. New York.: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  20. Jayawaderna, M. P. G. S., Patmanathan, M., & Ramadasan, K., (1978). Thinning and vascular streak dieback control in high density cocoa plantings under coconuts. International Conference on Cocoa and Coconuts, Kuala Lumpur, pp. 322–339.Google Scholar
  21. Jones, M. L. (2013). Mineral nutrient remobilization during corolla senescence in ethylene-sensitive and -insensitive flowers. AoB PLANTS, 5, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Keane, P. J., (1972). Aetiology and epidemiology of vascular-streak dieback of cocoa in Papua New Guinea. PhD thesis, University of Papua New Guinea.Google Scholar
  23. Keane, P. J. (1974). Vascular-streak dieback (Oncobasidium theobromae) of cocoa. In P. H. Gregory (Ed.), Phytophthora diseases of cocoa (pp. 283–286). London: Longman.Google Scholar
  24. Keane, P. J. (1981). Epidemiology of vascular-streak dieback of cocoa. Annals of Applied Biology, 98, 227–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Keane, P. J. (1992). Diseases and pests of cocoa: An overview. In P. J. Keane & C. A. J. Putter (Eds.), Cocoa pest and disease management in Southeast Asia and Australasia. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.Google Scholar
  26. Keane, P. J. (2010). Lessons from the tropics - plant diversity, unusual and changeable plant pathology, horizontal resistance, and the plight of farmers. Australasian Plant Pathology, 39, 192–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Keane, P. J., (2012). Horizontal or generalized resistance to pathogens in plants. In: D. C. J. Cumagun (Ed.), Plant pathology. InTech,
  28. Keane, P. J., Flentje, M. T., & Lamb, K. P. (1972). Investigation of vascular-streak dieback of cocoa in Papua New Guinea. Australian Journal of Biological Sciences, 25, 553–564.Google Scholar
  29. Keane, P. J., & Prior, C. (1991). Vascular-streak dieback of cocoa. Phytopathological Papers No. 33. CAB International, Mycological Institute IV Series, 40 pp.Google Scholar
  30. Keane, P. J., & Turner, P. D., (1971). Vascular-streak dieback of cocoa in West Malaysia. [Oncobasidium theobromae]. International Conference on Cocoa and Coconuts, Kuala Lumpur, pp. 50–57.Google Scholar
  31. Kotila, J. E. (1929). A study of the biology of a new spore-forming Rhizoctonia, Corticium praticola. Phytopathology, 19, 1059–1099.Google Scholar
  32. Lachenaud, P., & Oliver, G. (2005). Variability and selection for morphological bean traits in wild cocoa trees (Theobroma cacao L.) from French Guiana. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 52, 225–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lam, C. H., Varghese, G., & Zainal Abidin, M. A. (1988). In-vitro production of Oncobasidium theobromae basidiospores. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, 90, 505–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lockwood, G., Owusu-Ansah, F., & Adu-Ampomah, Y. (2007). Heritability of single plant yield and incidence of black pod disease in cocoa. Experimental Agriculture, 43, 455–462.Google Scholar
  35. McMahon, P., bin Purung, H., Lambert, S., Mulia, S., Nurlaila, Susilo, A. W., Sulistyowati, E., Sukamto, S., Israel, M., Saftar, A., Amir, A., Purwantara, A., Iswanto, A., Guest, D., & Keane, P. (2015). Testing local cocoa selections in three provinces in Sulawesi: (i) Productivity and resistance to cocoa pod borer and Phytophthora pod rot (black pod). Crop Protection, 70, 28–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McMahon, P. J., Purwantara, A., Susilo, A. W., Firmansyah, A., Bryceson, S., Parawansa, A., Nurlaila, Mulia, S., Saftar, A., Israel, M., bin Purung, H., Lambert, S., Guest, D. I., & Keane, P. J. (Submitted). Testing local cocoa selections in three provinces in Sulawesi: (iii) Vascular Streak Dieback. Crop Protection.Google Scholar
  37. McMahon, P. J., Purwantara, A., Susilo, A. W., Sukamto, S., Wahab, A., bin Purung, H., Hidayat, M., Ismail, D., Taproni, T., Lambert, S., Guest, D. I., & Keane, P. J. (2010). On-farm selection for quality and resistance to pest/diseases of cocoa in Sulawesi: (ii) quality and performance of selections against Phytophthora pod rot and vascular-streak dieback. International Journal of Pest Management, 56, 351–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Oberwinkler, F., Riess, K., Bauer, R., Kirschner, R., & Garnica, S. (2013). Taxonomic re-evaluation of the Ceratobasidium-Rhizoctonia complex and Rhizoctonia butinii, a new species attacking spruce. Mycological Progress, 12, 763–776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Parawansa, A., (2013). Incidence, severity and symptom development of vascular-streak dieback on local cocoa clones in Sulawesi. PhD thesis, Department of Plant Protection. Hasanuddin University, Indonesia.Google Scholar
  40. Pawirosoemardjo, S., & Purwantara, A. (1992). Occurrence and control of vascular-streak dieback of cocoa in Java and South East Sulawesi. In P. J. Keane & C. A. J. Putter (Eds.), Cocoa pest and disease management in South East Asia and Australasia. Rome: FAO.Google Scholar
  41. Pawirosoemardjo, S., Purwantara, A., & Keane, P. J. (1990). Vascular-streak dieback of cocoa in Indonesia. Cocoa Growers’ Bulletin, 43, 11–24.Google Scholar
  42. Peter, P., & Chandramohanan, R. (2011). Occurrence and distribution of cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) diseases in India. Journal of Research ANGRAU, 39, 44–50.Google Scholar
  43. Ploetz, R. C. (2007a). Cacao diseases: Important threats to chocolate production worldwide. Phytopathology, 97, 1634–1639.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Ploetz, R. C. (2007b). Diseases of tropical perennial crops: Challenging problems in diverse environments. Plant Disease, 91, 644–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Prior, C. (1977). Growth of Oncobasidium theobromae in dual culture with callus tissue of Theobroma cacao. Journal of General Microbiology, 99, 219–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Prior, C. (1978). A method of inoculating young cocoa plants with Basidiospores of Oncobasidium theobromae. Annals of Applied Biology, 88, 357–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Prior, C. (1979). Resistance of cocoa to vascular-streak dieback disease. Annals of Applied Biology, 92, 369–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Prior, C. (1980). Vascular streak-dieback. Cocoa Growers Bulletin, 29, 21–26.Google Scholar
  49. Prior, C. (1985). Cocoa quarantine: Measures to prevent the spread of vascular-streak dieback in planting material. Plant Pathology, 34, 603–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Prior, C. (1987). Chemical control of vascular-streak dieback disease of cocoa in Papua New Guinea. Plant Pathology, 36, 355–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Purwantara, A., Iswanto, A., Sukamto, S., McMahon, P. J., bin Purung, H., Lambert, S., Guest, D. I., & Keane, P. J., (2009). New symptoms of Vascular-streak dieback of cocoa in South-east Asia - Possible causes, studies required and control. Cocoa Producer’s Alliance (COPAL). Proceedings of the 16th International Cocoa Research Conference, Bali, Indonesia, 16–21 November, 2009.Google Scholar
  52. Roberts, P. M. (1999). Rhizoctonia-forming fungi: A taxonomic guide. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens.Google Scholar
  53. Ruf, F., & Yoddang. (2000). Cocoa migrants: From boom to bust. In F. Gerard & F. Ruf (Eds.), Agriculture in crisis: People, commodities and natural resources in Indonesia 1996-2000 (pp. 97–156). Richmond: Curzon Press.Google Scholar
  54. Samuels, G. J., Ismaiel, A., Rosmana, A., Junaid, M., Guest, D. I., McMahon, P. J., Keane, P. J., Purwantara, A., Lambert, S., Rodriguez-Carres, M., & Cubeta, M. A. (2012). Vascular Streak Dieback of cacao in Southeast Asia and Melanesia: In planta detection of the pathogen and a new taxonomy. Fungal Biology, 116, 11–23.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Shaw, D. E. (1962). Diseases of cacao in Papua New Guinea. The Papuan and New Guinea Agricultural Journal, 15, 79–90.Google Scholar
  56. Sidhu, M. (1987). Some short-term investigations into the management of vascular-streak dieback disease on young cocoa in Giram Estate, Sabah, Malaysia. Planter, Kuala Lumpur, 63, 47–58.Google Scholar
  57. Singh, G. (1989). Evaluation of fungicides against vascular streak dieback white thread blight and pink disease of cocoa. Journal of Plant Protection in the Tropics, 6, 19–24.Google Scholar
  58. Susilo, A. W., & Anita-Sari, I. (2011). Respons ketahanan beberapa hibrida kakao (Theobroma cacao L.) terhadap serangan penyakit pembuluh kayu (vascular-streak dieback). Pelita Perkebunan, 27, 77–87.Google Scholar
  59. Talbot, P. H. B., & Keane, P. J. (1971). Oncobasidium: A new genus of Tulasnelloid fungi. Australian Journal of Botany, 19, 203–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tan, G.-Y., & Tan, W.-K. (1988). Genetic variation in resistance to vascular-streak dieback in cocoa Theobroma cacao. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 75, 761–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tu, C. C., Roberts, D. A., & Kimbrough, J. W. (1969). Hyphal fusion, nuclear condition, and perfect stages of three species of Rhizoctonia. Mycologia, 61, 775–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Turner, P. D. (1967). Cocoa dieback – a review of present knowledge. FAO Plant Protection Bulletin, 15, 81–101.Google Scholar
  63. Turner, P. D., & Keane, P. J. (1982). Vascular-streak dieback of cocoa. FAO Plant Protection Bulletin, 30, 157–158.Google Scholar
  64. Turner, P. D., & Keane, P. J. (1985). Indonesia: vascular-streak dieback of cocoa. FAO Plant Protection Bulletin, 33, 41–44.Google Scholar
  65. Tzima, A., Paplomatas, E. J., Rauyaree, P., & Kang, S. (2010). Roles of the catalytic subunit of cAMP-dependent protein kinase A in virulence and development of the soilborne plant pathogen Verticillium dahliae. Fungal Genetics and Biology, 47, 406–415.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Vadamalai, G., (1999). In vitro production and Infectivity of Oncobasidium theobromae Talbot and Keane basidiospores. Masters thesis, Universiti Putra Malaysia.Google Scholar
  67. Vanderplank, J. E. (1948). The relation between the size of fields and the spread of plant pathogens into them. Empire Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 16, 134–142.Google Scholar
  68. Vanderplank, J. E. (1963). Plant disease: Epidemics and control. London: Academic.Google Scholar
  69. Williams, J. S., Hall, S. A., Hawkesford, M. J., Beale, M. H., & Cooper, R. M. (2002). Elemental sulfur and thiol accumulation in tomato and defense against a fungal vascular pathogen. Plant Physiology, 128, 150–159.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Zainal Abidin, M. A., Varghese, G., & Mainstone, B. J. (1984). Aspects of the epidemiology of vascular streak dieback of cocoa in Malaysia. International Conference on Cocoa and Coconuts, Kuala Lumpur, pp. 405–411.Google Scholar
  71. Zaparoli, G., Cabrera, O. G., Medrano, F. J., Tiburcio, R., Lacerda, G., & Pereira, G. G. (2009). Identification of a second family of genes in Moniliophthora perniciosa, the causal agent of witches’ broom disease in cacao, encoding necrosis-inducing proteins similar to cerato-platanins. Mycological Research, 113, 61–72.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanyLa Trobe UniversityBundooraAustralia
  2. 2.Biotechnology Research Institute for Estate CropsBogorIndonesia

Personalised recommendations