Cocoa Cultivation Guide:
Introduction of Cocoa Cultivation:- Cocoa is also called as “cacao” (derives from the Spanish word cacao) and this is mainly grown for its bean from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted. Cocoa beans are mainly used in the production of chocolate, cocoa powder and cocoa butter whereas cocoa butter is also used in the cosmetic industry. Cocoa is an important commercial bean crop from humid tropics. In India, this crop is grown as mixed crop in suitable regions. Kerala state of south India tops the production of cocoa beans in Indian continent. Ivory Coast is top producer of cocoa beans in the world. Usually, cocoa is grown as mixed crop in arecanut, coconut and oil palm gardens.
The cocoa bean plant is a native to Amazon basin and tropical regions of South America and Central America. Commercial cultivation of cocoa beans is very much successful due to its demand in local and international markets. One can expect decent profits in cocoa bean farming with proper orchard management practices. The botanical name or scientific name of cocoa tree is “Theobroma cacao. L.”. Cocoa tree belongs to the genus of” Theobroma”. In India, cocoa plantation is usually seen in the state of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. Cocoa beans are cultivated in smaller extents in some states only when compared to other countries.
Health Benefits of Cocoa:- The following are the health benefits of cocoa.
- 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 increases the insulin resistance hence good for diabetic patients.
- Cocoa prevents from neuro-degenerative disorders.
- Cocoa aids in bronchial asthma patients.
- Cocoa helps in fighting with obesity.
- Cocoa has wonderful therapeutic and wound-healing properties.
- Cocoa is good for heart health.
- Due to good fiber, cocoa aids in preventing constipation.
- Cocoa helps in preventing growth of certain cancer cells.
- Cocoa enhances mood and combat depression.
- Copper deficiency and Magnesium deficiency can be prevented from cocoa consumption.
- Cocoa prevents chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Cocoa is good for skin.
Other Uses of Cocoa:- The main uses of cocoa are; food, medicinal/therapeutic, cosmetics, peat mulch alternative.
Common Names of Cocoa:- Cocoa tree, Cocoa, Chocolate tree, Cacao tree and food of the Gods.
Local Names of Cocoa in India:- कोको (Hindi), కోకో (Telugu), கோகோ (Tamil), ਕੋਕੋ (Punjabi), કોકોનું ઝાડ (Gujarati),ಕೋಕಾ (Kannada), कोकाआ (Marathi),কোকো (Bengali), കൊക്കോ (Malayalam), چاکلیٹ پاؤڈر (Urdu).
Varieties of Cocoa:- Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario are three types of cocoa cultivated in most of the regions. However, Forastero variety does well in Indian agro-climatic conditions. Some of the high yielding varieties available in India are; CCRP – 1, CCRP – 2, CCRP – 3, CCRP – 4, CCRP– 5, CCRP – 6,CCRP – 7 and hybrids VTLCH1, VTLCH2, VTLCH3 and VTLCH4CCRP – 8, CCRP – 9, CCRP – 10.
Climate Requirement for Cocoa Cultivation:- Basically, cocoa is tropically grown perennial crop and temperature and rainfall are very important for tree optimum growth and yield. 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 and a relative humidity of 80-85%. The maximum and minimum temperatures required for its cultivation are 34°C and 14°C.
Soil Requirement of Cocoa Cultivation:- Cocoa trees can be grown wide range of soils. Cocoa trees are predominantly cultivated in red laterite soils. However, these trees prefer well-drained sandy loam soil with pH range of 6.5 to 7.0. Water retaining soils are best for its optimum growth and yield.
Land Preparation for Cocoa Cultivation:- Land should be prepared by giving 3 to 4 ploughings until the soil attains fine tilth stage. If the crop is grown on large scale (commercially), it is advised to go for soil test. Based on test results, soil should be supplemented with required nutrients. As this crop requires well-drainage soil, land should be prepared in such a way that the water should be drained quickly.
Propagation Methods in Cocoa Cultivation:- 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.
Planting and Spacing in Cocoa Cultivation:- 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.
- In case where main crop is coconut and inter-crop is cocoa: Requires 7.5 meter by 7.5 meter which accommodates 500 cocoa plants per hectare land.
- In case where main crop is Arecanut and inter-crop is cocoa: Requires 2.7 meter by 2.7 meter which accommodates 686 cocoa plants per hectare land.
- In case where main crop is Oil palm and inter-crop is cocoa: Requires 4.5 meter by 4.5 meter which accommodates 400 cocoa plants per hectare land.
Planting Material Selection in Cocoa Cultivation:- Selection of good and healthy planting material is very important in any commercial crop farming. If you are planning to use seedlings, select vigorous and healthy seedlings from genuine/reputed certified nurseries. Make sure select the seedling or budded or grafted plant which is at least 4 to 5 months old. The cocoa seedling or grafted plant or budded plant should be placed in the center of the pot.
Irrigation in Cocoa Cultivation:- 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.
Manures and Fertilizers in Cocoa Cultivation:- Cocoa plant responds very well to organic manures and fertilizers. Any nutrient/micro-nutrient gaps should be filled during soil/land preparation. On an average, each cocoa plant requires 8 to 10 kg of well rotten farm yard manure (FMY) along with 100 grams of ‘N’, 40 grams of ‘P2O5’ AND 140 grams of K20 per year. These fertilizers should be applied in 2 equal split doses one in Apr-May other in Aug-Sep. Organic manures should be applied in first year itself. 1/3 rd of fertilizers in first year, 2/3 rd in second year and full dose should be applied from third year.
Pruning in Cocoa Cultivation:- 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.
Pests and Diseases in Cocoa Cultivation:- 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.
- Pests control measures: For symptoms of these pests and their control, contact local horticulture department as they are the best source.
- 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.
- Disease control measures: For symptoms of these diseases and their control, contact local horticulture department as they are the best source.
Harvest and Threshing in Cocoa Cultivation:- 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.
Post-Harvest in Cocoa Cultivation:- 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.
Yield in Cocoa Cultivation:- Yield of cocoa crop depends on many factors like variety/cultivar, soil type, plant age, and other farm management practices. On an average of 50 to 60 pods/tree/year can be expected. The yield would be in vegetative propagation when compared to seed propagation method. In seed propagation crop, 200 kg/ha dried bean and in vegetative crop, 500 to 800 kg/ha dried bean can be obtained.
Marketing of Cocoa Bean:- Contact local markets or domestic food processing industries or any cosmetic companies for bulk marketing.
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