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Cocoa yields are mushrooming—downward

Hoping to preserve the world's chocolate output, scientists have begun fighting fire with fire, so to speak—or in this case, fungus with fungus.

Until about 5 years ago, Brazil was the world's second-leading exporter of cacao, the bean from which cocoa and chocolate are made. Since then, Brazilian cacao yields have nose-dived to about 25 percent of their former level. The reason for the drop is that plantations have suffered an epidemic of attacks by the witches' broom mushroom, Crinipellis perniciosa. The blight's name comes from the clustered strawlike twigs that develop on infected branches. More importantly, the fungus destroys cocao beans.

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