Cocoa Farming – Introduction
The cocoa is a luxury food item. The cocoa plant bears the cocoa pods and the pods contain the cocoa beans. Chocolate is produced after processing of the beans. The chocolate is without any doubt the most demanded flavors of the world. It is considered an indulgence and a luxury food item.
Though the cocoa is grown in tropical regions, it cannot be grown anywhere in any tropical region. Growing cocoa requires specific conditions. And of course, the quality of cocoa beans decides the quality of chocolates. Everybody knows that chocolate has a huge demand worldwide. Therefore meticulous care has to be taken while cultivating cocoa. Cocoa cultivation can be very rewarding if done the right way. As a matter of fact, the demand for cocoa is increasing day by day. The cocoa which is produced is not sufficient to meet the rising demand and hence the prices have pushed up and the quality has also degraded for regular chocolates and chocolate drinks. Therefore at such a time, cultivation of good quality cocoa is not only needed for the hour but also a necessity. Good quality cocoa also fetches a very good price.
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Scientific Name of Cocoa: Theobroma cacao
Top Cocoa Producing Countries In The World
Common Name Of Cocoa In Other Languages
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Different Varieties Of Cocoa For Cultivation
This variety of cocoa is considered rare. The finest chocolates are made of the Criollo cocoa variety. The cocoa tree naturally occurs in the central and southern part of America and parts of Sri Lanka. The criollo cocoa variety accounts for five percent of the total production of cocoa in the world. The major reason for its rare cultivation is because the plant is delicate and susceptible to a number of environmental conditions which pose a threat towards its growth. Therefore they grow only in selected regions of the world. The color of the Criollo cocoa beans is whitish to pale pink in color. The flavor of the cocoa is mild and delicate, unlike the usual chocolate taste.
The forastero cocoa variety is thought to be a native plant of the Amazon Today, the plant is grown extensively in Africa, Brazil, and Ecuador. This variety of cocoa constitutes the maximum (almost 80 percent) world supply of cocoa. This is because the forastero cocoa variety is hardy and can withstand a number of environmental conditions which the criollo variety cannot. The forastero pods are yellow when ripe and the beans are purple colored. The original taste and flavor of the chocolate are rendered by this variety of cocoa. With a slightly bitter taste, the forastero variety of cocoa is often mixed with other high-quality cocoa to produce the natural chocolate taste. There are three subspecies of foratero namely- amelonado, calabazilla, and condemnor. Out of these, the amelonado is the most cultivated species.
The trinitarian is a result of the natural cross-pollination. It is a hybrid variety. The hybrid is thought to have been originated in Trinidad hence the name of the variety. This variety is extensively found in many parts of the world such as Southeast Asia, Caribbean islands, Venezuela, Mexico, Columbia etc. The trinitario cocoa variety possesses the combined characteristics of the criollo and the forastero The plant is hardy and can sustain in varied environmental conditions like the forastero variety. The cocoa beans produce fine chocolate taste like criollo. However, the overall yield of fine chocolate may vary. A combination of superior and average quality cocoa is found in the plant of this variety.
These three varieties of cocoa plants are mainly grown worldwide and are responsible for chocolate production in the world. Some newer high yielding varieties also include CCRP 1 to 7. There are also some hybrids namely VTLCH 1, 2, 3, 4. All these varieties are the type of foratero cocoa which can be cultivated under conditions in India.
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Cultivation Of Cocoa
For cultivation of cocoa, the variety to be cultivated is very important to decide. The criollo variety is a delicate one. The forastero variety is the one which can well adapt itself to environmental conditions. Therefore usually it is suitable for cultivation under general conditions. The cocoa plantation also requires a large space and area for its cultivation. the second most important thing is disease and pest control. Because of the pest attack, cocoa worth a lot of money is lost every year. Good quality inputs and improved methods must also be used for good quality cocoa.
Soil Conditions For Cocoa Farming
Cocoa can be cultivated in almost any kind of soil. it grows well in slightly acidic to neutral soil. the ideal ph of the soil would be 4.5-6.5. the soil must have medium to high fertility rate. Cocoa plants grow well in soils having a good drainage. The soil must have at least 1.5 m of drained soil in depth for the plants to grow well. Good moisture retention capacity of the soil is essential for the cultivation of cocoa.
Climatic Conditions For Cocoa Farming
The cocoa plants are generally native to the tropical regions. However, different varieties of cocoa have different climatic conditions. The ideal temperature required for growth of cocoa plants is 21-32 degree Celsius. However, if the temperature drops below 10 degree Celsius then the yield might be severely affected. On the other hand, if the temperature is more than 32 degree Celsius for a longer period then the quality of the cocoa beans is affected. Cocoa cultivation requires an average annual rainfall of 1200-2000 mm per year. Also, the rainfall must be distributed evenly. The cocoa plants grow well in regions which are 1200 m higher than the sea level.
Land Preparation Of Cocoa Farming
A proper site has to be selected for the cultivation of cocoa. First of all the site must be cleared of any unwanted things remaining from the previous cultivation. the soil has to be ploughed properly and harrowed to achieve a fine tilth. Proper drainage channels must be made to ensure drainage of excess water out of the field. Then pits have to be dug out measuring 50cm*50cm*50cm. After digging out the pits, it should be left open for about a month. While planting the seedlings, the pits must be filled with topsoil mixed with well-decomposed farmyard manure.
Propagation Method Of Cocoa Farming
Cocoa is widely propagated through seeds. For that seeds freshly taken from the cocoa pods are sown inside the soil. Vegetative methods for propagation are also used such as budding and grafting. The softwood grafting method is used on seedlings which are 3-4 months old. On the other hand, patch budding is done on 10-12 months old seedlings. The success rate in budding is more than in grafting.
Planting Method In Cocoa Farming
The seedlings are usually grown under protected conditions in the nursery. Adequate shade is required for raising the cocoa seedlings. When the seedlings are mature enough to be transplanted, they are planted in the main field in previously dug out pits. The planting is done at the onset of monsoon. After planting, a light irrigation is recommended. The soil around the base of the plant must be firmly pressed so that air inside is expelled out.
Irrigation Methods For Cocoa Farming
Cocoa naturally occurs in areas where there is abundant water. In other cases such as commercial cultivation, the planting is done in monsoon. Hence, heavy irrigation is not required. However, if the rainfall is uneven, proper irrigation is to be given. The field must be checked for excessive accumulation of rainwater. In such case, the excess water must be drained out. The cocoa plants cannot tolerate drought conditions at all. Therefore, in such conditions and also during summer, proper and regular irrigation is very much required for cocoa plants. The soil must be checked for moisture.
Nutrition Management For Cocoa Farming
The fertilizer application must be done carefully in the young cocoa plants. The fertilizers are spread in a circle around each cocoa plant at a radius of 30 cm. The radius can be gradually increased till 150cm after the third year. The drip irrigation system of fertilizer application is very effective for nutrition management of cocoa cultivation. in such method, the fertilizers are dissolved in water and sprayed just like the drip irrigation method.
The requirement for both macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium as well as micronutrients for cocoa cultivation is high. Therefore adequate amounts of micronutrients must also be provided to the cocoa crop.
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Intercultural Methods For Cocoa Farming
Cocoa is cultivated as an intercrop with other plantations such as coconut, oil palm, and areca nut. Mixed cropping of cocoa is also done with other crops such as rubber, spices and other plants. Weed management is important in early stages of development of cocoa plants. Other practices such as thinning and pruning are also necessary. Thinning must be done so that the plants can receive proper air and sunlight. Pruning ensures proper growth of the cocoa pods.
Disease And Pest Control Methods For Cocoa Farming
- Mealybugs- chlorpyriphos or dimethoate spray
- Planthoppers- thiacloprid spray
- Hairy caterpillar- acephate spray
- Tea mosquito bug- carbaryl or imidacloprid spray
- Aphids- dimethoate spray
- Stem girdler- monocrotophos or carbaryl application
- Seedling blight- Bordeaux mixture spray
- Stem canker- Bordeaux mixture spray
- Cherelle wilt- appropriate measures
- Black pod rot- Bordeaux mixture spray
- Vascular streak dieback- regular pruning
Yield Of Cocoa From Cocoa Farming
With proper farm management, an average yield of 60-70 pods from each tree per year can be expected.
The cocoa pods take about 140-160 days to mature. The cocoa plants start bearing fruits after the third year. Commercial production starts after the fifth year. The pods are ready to harvest when they start to change their color. The immature pods are green in color. The mature pods turn yellow, orange or reddish when ripe. The pods must only be harvested when they have matured fully and over-ripening must be avoided.
Post-Harvest Management And Marketing Of Cocoa
The post-harvest management of cocoa is a deciding factor in taste and quality of the chocolate. After harvesting, the cocoa pods are dried in the sun for several days. Then, the pods are broken and the beans are separated. The separated beans have to be fermented using any fermentation method and dried under the sun.
The end product is the shrunk, brown colored dry cocoa bean which is packaged properly to be sold in the market. The beans are graded before storing. The cocoa beans must be packed properly before marketing them.
Benefits Of Cocoa
- Cocoa is well known for its mood enhancing properties. The compounds contained in cocoa can help to brighten the mood.
- The cocoa butter is used in many culinary preparations. It is also used in beauty products due to its moisturizing
- Cocoa can help to lower the blood cholesterol. The substances in cocoa reduce the bad cholesterol in the body.
- It can also help to prevent the occurrence of certain kinds of cancer.
- Cocoa helps to enhance the performance of the brain and improves memory power.
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Cocoa Farming – Conclusion
It seems that the post-harvest management of cocoa plays an important role in cocoa cultivation among other factors. The whole process of growing the cocoa plants till packaging is very important as the quality of the end product is dependent on it. But, the toil and patience are worth it since it also comes with handsome returns.