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Cardamom – A crop cannot run away from its problems

| July 3, 2016

When crops are taken from one continent to another, their pests and diseases eventually catch up with them. When there is no research capacity to respond, the farmers can have serious problems.

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Guatemala is poised on the edge of a disaster with cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum),a spice crop which has been grown in the Central American country for over 100 years. Cardamom is the fourth largest earner of foreign exchange for Guatemala. Central Americans do not cook with cardamom, and nearly all of their harvest is exported, half a world away, especially to the Middle East.

Thousands of Guatemalan farm families depend on cardamom, which is ideally suited to the cool, tropical highlands.

A cardamom virus arrived in 1975 and has already wiped out the crop in the southwest of the country. It first appeared around Quetzaltenango and by 1980 was present in nearly all cardamom gardens and fields of the South Pacific coast of Guatemala, where 60% of the crop had been grown. It was probably spread by rhizome cuttings (Gonzalves et al 1986). In just the past few years, Guatemalan cardamom has also acquired two insect pests: the ginger weevil (Cholus pilicauda) and a tiny, black insect about the size of a pinhead, called the cardamom thrips (Sciothrips cardamomi) (Claudio Nunes, personal communication). The thrips entered Guatemala in 2012, probably from India, the homeland of cardamom.

In spite of cardamom’s importance, Guatemala never established any research to support it. (The way that Colombia did with coffee, and Ghana did with cacao, for instance). This makes cardamom especially vulnerable to new pests and diseases. Some isolated researchers and international volunteers are trying to learn about these new problems and offer a solution, but when research starts from zero it may not find a solution in time.

This is an extract of the full article published in: Outlooks on Pest Management – February 2016 issue.

The full text of this article is available to subscribers of Outlooks on Pest Management.
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Author: Jeffery W. Bentley, Agro-Insight, Casilla 2695, Cochabamba, Bolivia describes the problems facing the cardamom crop in Guatemala.

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Category: Agriculture