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Organic Cocoa Farming (Pic Source from Flickr).
Organic Cocoa Farming (Pic Source from Flickr).

Organic Cocoa Farming For Beginners

ORGANIC COCOA FARMING GUIDE

The following is all about Organic Cocoa Farming.

Organic Farming

Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that involves much more than choosing not to use pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, and growth hormones.

Top 10 Cocoa Production Countries

  1. Cote d’Ivoire.
  2. Ghana.
  3. Indonesia.
  4. Nigeria.
  5. Cameroon.
  6. Brazil.
  7. Ecuador.
  8. Mexico.
  9. Peru.
  10. Dominican Republic.

Benefits Of Organic Cocoa Farming

  • Healthy Foods.
  • Pollution of ground water is stopped.
  • Improvement in soil quality.
  • Increased crop productivity and income.

Steps to be followed In Organic Cocoa Farming

  • Conversion of land from conventional management to organic management.
  • Management of the entire surrounding system to ensure biodiversity and sustainability of the system.
  • Crop production with the use of alternative sources of nutrients such as crop rotation, residue management, organic manures and biological inputs.
  • Management of weeds and pests by better management practices, physical and cultural means and by biological control system.
  • Maintenance of live stock in tandem with organic concept and make them an integral part of the entire system.

Introduction to Cocoa

  • The roasted product of the dried beans is called as Cacao nibs. They are used for the manufacture of various products. It has around 55% fat. The fat that is pressed from chocolate liquor is termed as cacao butter. It is mainly used for the manufacture of chocolates, in pharmaceutical preparations and soap making.
  • After pressing out the fat the resultant product with reduced fat content (around 22%) is called cacao powder. For preparation of chocolates cacao power is mixed with cacao butter and sugar with a definite ratio. Milk chocolates are prepared by adding milk to the above mixture.
  • Cacao is a small to medium-sized tree of 8 meters -10 meters. The botanical name of Cocoa is Theobroma cacao, it is belongs to family Sterculiaceae and originated in Tropical south America. Its blossoms appear from the wood of the leaf axil, on the trunk and the branches.
  • Kerala is largest state of Cocoa production followed by Karnataka.

CLIMATE FOR ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

Cacao is a crop which grows in humid tropics and well distributed rain fall. A minimum of 90 mm to 100 mm rainfall per month with an annual precipitation of 1500 mm to 2000 mm is ideal for the growth of cocoa. However, it can also be grown in other regions by supplementing rainfall with irrigation during dry periods. Cacao tolerates a minimum temperature of 15°C and a maximum of 40°C, but temperature around 25°C is considered as optimum.

SOIL FOR ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

Cacao grows on a wide range of soils but loose soils which allow root penetration and movement of air and moisture are ideal. It should retain moisture in the soil during dry season as cacao requires regular supply of moisture for proper growth. Though cacao can be grown in soils with pH range from 4.5 to 8.0, it grows vigorously in neutral soils.

VARIETIES FOR ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

  • Trinitario.
  • Forestero.
  • Ameonado.
  • Amazon.
  • Criollo.

PLANTING MATERIAL OF ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

Cocoa Seedlings in nursery (Image Source - Commons Wikimedia)
Cocoa Seedlings in nursery (Image Source – Commons Wikimedia)
  • Cacao can be propagated from seeds or vegetatively from buds and cuttings. However, vegetative propagation is used only for experimental studies. Seed pods may be collected from trees. Fresh beans from such pods should be used for sowing, as cacao seeds lose their viability soon after they are taken out of pods. Before sowing, the seeds are rubbed with dry sand or wood ash to remove mucilage.
  • The beans are planted with their pointed end upwards, either in plastic bags (25cm x 15 cm size, 150 gauge) or in raised beds. If sown young seedlings are usually transplanted into polythene bags after about two weeks of germination.
  • The seedlings are ready for transplantation to the field after about 3 to 4 months or they attain a height of 30 cm. Cacao can be also propagated vegetatively through cuttings, soft wood grafting, forkert method of budding etc., but there are limitations at present for adopting vegetative propagation on commercial scale.

ESTABLISHING PLANTATION IN ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

Cocoa Tree.
Cocoa Tree.

Cacao requires shade when they are young. Young cacao plants grow best with 45 per cent full sun light. Therefore, it can be grown well in the partially shaded conditions prevailing in the Arecanut and coconut gardens or as a pure plantation in forest lands by thinning and regulating the shade suitably. It is planted at a distance of 2.5 meters to 3.0 meters both between and within rows, either in the beginning of the monsoon, in May to June or at the end of the south west monsoon, in September.

SPACING IN ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

In Arecaunut gardens where the spacing is 2.7 meters x 2.7 meters cacao is inter planted in alternate rows at a spacing of 5.4 meters x 2.7 meters. In coconut gardens, it can be planted 2.7 meters apart in a single row. Under the double hedge system, cacao is planted in two rows adopting a spacing of 2.7 meters within the row and 2.5 meters between rows of coconut planted at a normal spacing of 7.5 meters x 7.5 meters.

MANURING AND IRRIGATION FOR ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

  • Many varieties of palms are capable of actively breaking down phosphorous through symbiosis with mycorrhiza, as well as binding heavy metals in the soil. This means that incorporating palms into the plantation will help provide the cocoa trees with phosphorus (an essential nutrient for a good harvest and plant health) and lower the heavy metal content of the beans.
  • The creation of organic material through mulching and pruning activities is sufficient for an economically viable production provided a stratified (numerous canopies), diverse and densely planted agro forestry (Arecaunut+ coconut gardens + cacao) system is in place.
  • Another important tree type to add to the agro forestry system is a leguminous or Nitrogen fixing tree. Leguminous trees are able to fix Nitrogen from the air and make it available to the plants growing around them, including the cocoa trees.
  • Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for the health and productivity of cocoa and therefore it is important to include at least one species of leguminous plant in the plantation.

PESTS AND DISEASES FOR ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

  • Several diseases are seen in Cocoa, which can lead to high yield losses in cocoa. They are “Black Pod” which is caused by several species of the fungi Phytophthora makes the pods turn black and mummify.
  • The “Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease” (short CSSV) is transmitted by mealybugs and affects roots, stems, leaves and may lead to a die-off of the whole Cocoa tree.
  • Especially the “Witches’ Broom Disease” (Crinipellis perniciosa) and the “Monilia Pod Rot”, caused by species of the fungus Miniliophtera (Moniliophtera (crinipellis) perniciosa and Moniliophtera roreri), are to be taken seriously.
  • Phytophtora palmivora:- In the case of this infestation seen, remove the infected pods regularly and burnt in a deep hole. In case of intolerable infestation harvest losses can be alleviated by application of permitted copper preparation but not more than 3 kg per ha and year.
  • Moniliophtera (‘‘Monili’’):- Removing infected pods regularly – and especially the cutting off before spores are produced can avoid the spreading of the disease. A carefully repeated application of copper and the usage of resistant Cocoa varieties may help to limit the disease.
  • The losses caused by pests world-wide are enormous. They result from the Cocoa fruits being sucked dry in all stages of growth, after which the plant can die off if the damage has been severe.
  • Pests which often turn up in Cocoa cultivation areas are insects, such as Mirids (capsidis), causing damage to young shoots and pods and make the tree susceptible to infection. Also other insects and vertebrates can lead to damages on cocoa plants.
  • Without losing sight of the need to combat the root causes, a solution which can be immediately utilised to save a harvest is the application of a 3% alkaline soap solution.

PRUNING IN ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

Cocoa Fruit.
Cocoa Fruit.
  • The cacao trees should be pruned regularly to develop a good shape. Cacao grows in a series of storeys. The chupon or vertical growth of the seedlings terminates at the jorquette, where four or five fan branches develop.
  • Further vertical growth develops just below the jorquette and continues its vertical growth till another jorquette forms and so on. When the first jorquette develops at a height of about 1.5 meters, the canopy will form at a height convenient for harvesting and other operations. Hence, all the fan branches arising from the main step are nipped off up to a height of about 1.0 meter to 1.5 meters or cut in the initial years of their growth.
  • It is desirable to limit the height of the tree at that level by periodical removal of vertical growth. A second jorquette may be allowed to develop, if the first one formed was very close to the ground. Generally, 3 to 5 fan branches are developed at each jorquette. When more fan branches develop on or two weaker ones may be removed. The branches badly affected by pests and diseases also should be removed.

HARVESTING IN ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

Cocoa Harvesting.
Cocoa Harvesting.
  • Cacao flowers from the second year of planting the pods take about 140 to 160 days to mature and ripen. Each pod will have 25 to 45 beans embedded in white pulp (mucilage). Generally cacao gives two main crops in a year i.e.
  • September – January and April – June, off season crops may be seen almost all through the year, especially under irrigated conditions. Only ripe pods have to be harvested without damaging the flower cushion, at regular intervals of 10 to 15 days.
  • The pods are harvested by cutting the stalk with the help of a knife. The harvested pods should be kept for a minimum period of two to three days before opening for fermentation.
  • For breaking the pods cross wise, wooden billet may be used and the placenta should be removed together with husk and the beans are collected for fermentation. A pod will have about 30 to 45 seeds covered with pulp or mucilage.

YIELD IN ORGANIC COCOA FARMING

The yield of  crop in Organic Cocoa Farming  depends on variety/cultivar, plant age, irrigation, soil, climate and other garden management practices. Cocoa yield is 80 or more pods per year with pod weight 350 grams to 400 grams.

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