How to Grow Cocoa tree
Botanical Name: Theobroma cacao.
It originated in Central America and parts of Mexico.
The main uses of cocoa are food, medicinal/therapeutic, cosmetics, peat mulch alternative.
• Cocoa aids in lowering blood pressure (BP) and improving the elasticity of blood vessels.
• Cocoa beans have excellent antioxidant properties.
• Cocoa is good for brain health.
• Cocoa lowers blood cholesterol (Lowers TGCL and LDL).
• Cocoa prevents from neurodegenerative disorders.
• Cocoa aids in bronchial asthma patients.
• Cocoa helps in fighting with obesity.
• Copper deficiency and Magnesium deficiency can be prevented from cocoa consumption.
• Cocoa prevents chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
• Cocoa is good for skin.
♦ Forastero variety: CCRP– 1, CCRP– 2, CCRP– 3, CCRP– 4, CCRP– 5, CCRP– 6, CCRP– 7.
♦ Hybrid: VTLCH1, VTLCH2, VTLCH3 and VTLCH4CCRP– 8, CCRP– 9, CCRP– 10.
• Cocoa bean trees can be cultivated at altitudes up to 1150 meters above mean sea level (MSL).
• Cocoa crop requires an average annual rainfall of 1000 mm to 2000 mm.
• Relative humidity of 80-85%.
• The maximum temperatures required for its cultivation are 34°C.
• The minimum temperatures required for its cultivation 14°C.
Cocoa trees can be grown a wide range of soils. Cocoa trees are predominantly cultivated in red laterite soils. However, these trees prefer well drained clay, loam or sandy loam soil with pH range of 6.5 to 7.0. Water retaining soils are best for its optimum growth and yield.
Propagation of cocoa is done through seeds and vegetative cuttings.
Seed propagation: In seed propagation of cocoa, seeds should be treated with ash or lime. Cocoa seeds should be sown polythene bags. These seeds can be raised in nursery beds with required shade. Seeds sown soon after extraction. Seedlings of 60 cm height should be ready for transplantation in main filed. For better germination, make sure to sow the seeds whose pod husk thickness is less than one centimeter and bean (dry) weight is more than one gram.
Vegetative Propagation: Cocoa trees may propagated by vegetative cutting, budding, grafting. In vegetative propagation to achieve 90% of rooting, should use cuttings of 3 to 4 cm long with 1 or 2 leaves on it treated with IBA and planted in medium of rotten palm fiber and sand in equal part.
Generally tree cuttings of 15 cm length bearing four terminal leaves should be treated with NNA + IBA dip and planted in poly bags, this will result in rooting of 65 to 75% after one month.
Land should be prepared by giving 3 to 4 ploughings until the soil attains fine tilth stage. As this crop requires well drainage soil, land should be prepared in such a way that the water should be drained quickly.
Planting and Spacing
Cocoa plantation depends on cultivar and method adopted. However, the fowling shows the recommended spacing when the cocoa is grown as intercrop. Basically, cocoa is a shade loving plant and natural or artificial shade should be created during its seedling period and growing period. Cocoa requires more shade initial stages than later stages of growth.
Main Crop Inter Crop Spacing (m) Cocoa Plant/ ha
Coconut Cocoa 7.5 X 7.5 500
Arecanut Cocoa 2.7 X 2.7 686
Oil palm Cocoa 4.5 X 4.5 400
Selection of planting materials
When seedlings are used as planting, select vigorous and healthy seedlings from polyclonal garden. The planting material should be of 46 month old seedling or grafted or budded plant. The seedling/ grafted/budded plant should be planted in the centre of the pit, not too deep. While planting grafts, polythene strip tied over graft joint should be removed and the joint should be above the soil.
Manures and Fertilizers
Cocoa plant responds very well to organic manures and fertilizers. Any nutrient/micronutrient gaps should be filled during soil/land preparation.
On an average, each cocoa plant requires
▲ FYM: 8 to 10 kg/ year.
▲ N: 100 g/ year.
▲ P2O5 : 40 g/ year.
▲ K2O: 140 g/ year.
These fertilizers should be applied in 2 equal split doses; one in April–May other in August–September. Organic manures should be applied in first year itself. 1/3 of fertilizers in first year, 2/3 in second year and full dose should be applied from third year.
Pruning is the process of thinning of branches and removing old or dead stems/branches. This is mandatory in most of the farm management to allow the crop to grow well by allowing direct sunlight. Pruning in cocoa cultivation should be carried out twice a year. Pruning is done to encourage a tree structure or control the height that allows sunlight.
♣ Carry out the first pruning after main harvest just before monsoon.
♣ Second pruning should be done 6 months after the first one.
Any lower branches and dead branches should be removed. Limit the branches 4 to 5 for better sun light. Burn any diseases branches after they are removed.
Proper irrigation of cocoa plants ensures healthy growth and yield. Constant moisture should be maintained as cocoa plants are sensitive to drought. Young cocoa plants should be irrigated frequently at an interval of 3 days during summer and hot/dry climatic conditions. It does not require any watering in rainy season. In case of floods and over rains, make sure to drain out the water from fields as soon as possible. Adopting drip irrigation is best method of using water effectively. Even applying fertilizers through drip is possible for better utilization of fertilizers and controlling weed growth.
Pests and Disease
In any crop, pest and disease control play major role for getting quality produce and higher yields. The following are the main pests and diseases found in cocoa cultivation-
Pests: The following are common pests found in cocoa cultivation Mealy bugs, Aphids, Plant hoppers, Caterpillars, Mosquitoes, Cocoa pod borer and Stem Girdlers.
Diseases: The following are common diseases found in cocoa cultivation Cocoa swollen shoot, Seedling blight, Witches broom, Black Pod, Frosty pod, Stem Canker and Wilt.
1. Spraying of Neem Oil 3% or fish oil rosin soap 25 g/litre.
2. Spraying of dimethoate @ 2 ml per litre.
3. Spraying Imidacloprid (0.6 ml/lit), Thiamethoxam (0.6 g/litre), Profenophos (2 ml/litre), Carbaryl (2 g/lit).
4. Spray with 1% Bordeaux mixture or 0.2% copper oxychloride just before the onset of monsoon and thereafter at frequent intervals for seedling blight.
5. Remove the infected pods.
6. Remove and destroy the affected seedlings.
Harvest and Threshing
Cocoa trees start flowering from third year of sowing/planting. Actual economic yield starts from fifth year. Cocoa pods mature in about 5 to 6 months. Usually cocoa produces two main crops in a year. Usually, one can judge the maturity of pods by colour change. Generally, green pods turn to yellow when mature. Make sure to harvest at regular intervals of 10-12 days. Do not allow pods to be over ripened. The pods are opened by heating on a hard surface or using a mallet.
Once harvesting is done, pod fermentation should be carried out. Afterwards pod breaking should take place in this you may get 30 to 35 wet cocoa beans per each pod. These beans should go through fermentation and drying. Dried cocoa beans should be graded, packed and stored.
On average 50-70 pods/tree/year.
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