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Cocoa beans from fruits damaged by fungal diseases (witches' broom and black pod): evaluation to drive new applications

Grant number: 21/01041-9
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: December 01, 2021 - November 30, 2023
Field of knowledge:Agronomical Sciences - Food Science and Technology - Food Technology
Principal Investigator:Priscilla Efraim
Grantee:Priscilla Efraim
Host Institution: Faculdade de Engenharia de Alimentos (FEA). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Associated researchers:Douglas Fernandes Barbin ; Juliana Alves Macedo


In cocoa production areas around the world, there is a factor that significantly reduces productivity: the presence of fungal diseases in the growing areas. It is estimated that 30% of the world's production is lost due to fungal diseases. Among them, the Witches' Broom and Black Pod diseases stand out. Fruits damaged by these diseases are often discarded, generating problems including contamination of the production area or mixed with healthy fruits to perform the pre-processing stages of cocoa (fermentation and drying). In this case, the mixing of material damaged by fungal diseases with healthy material causes a drop in the quality of the final product. For Brazil, these diseases are a serious problem, affecting mainly the regions of Bahia and Espírito Santo. Despite all efforts to eliminate these diseases, it is known that there is still no evidence of success as to the complete elimination. The concept for the project comes from several years of experience with cocoa producers. The complexity of finding application for damaged fruits causes producers to discard them (when the degree of fungus infection is high) or mix them with healthy fruits (when the degree of infection is still low). In the last case, the mixture of damaged seeds with healthy ones is a way to harness the material and add value to it. For cocoa processors, this material when mixed causes quality loss in the cocoa products and, consequently, negative impacts on the products obtained (cocoa mass, cocoa butter and cocoa powder). The objective of this project is to identify new applications for cocoa beans extracted from fruits that present the fungal diseases: Black Pod (Phytophtora Palmivora) and Witches's Broom (Moniliophthora perniciosa). In the first step of the project, the damage degree of cocoa fruits will be evaluated in the cocoa farms by means of physical characterization of the pods, physicochemical characterization of the pulp, seeds, husks and shells. These data will be used for developing new image analysis algorithms to establish a relationship between cocoa fruit appearance (color and morphology) and seed quality, based on the parameters obtained from digital images. In the second step of the project, the cocoa seeds extracted from damaged and healthy fruits will be processed, initially in the cocoa farm (with the project partners - cocoa producers), through the fermentation and drying steps and then brought to Unicamp for further processing steps to obtain cocoa mass, cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The products obtained will be sent to the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Development and Packaging - Fraunhofer IVV (Germany) for evaluation of the crystallising properties of cocoa butter and polyphenol extraction and characterization of cocoa powder. These analyses are important to understand the quality of these products and propose applications, whether for food or cosmetics, for example. (AU)

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