How to Start Cocoa Plantation Farming with Small Investment

Here in this article, we provide you the steps to follow in carrying out cocoa cultivation on a small farm for beginners.

Actually, cocoa yields cocoa beans. And cocoa beans are the source of cocoa butter and cocoa mass. And these are the important ingredients in the commercial bakery, confectionery, and sweet production. Hence, cocoa is an important commercial plantation crop of the world.

The primary center of the diversity of cocoa is the upper Amazon basin in South America. And you can find the greatest range of variation in the natural population. Currently, there are several countries that grow cocoa commercially.

The scientific name of cocoa is Theobroma cacao. And it belongs to the Mallows family. Some of the major cocoa-producing countries are Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru. India produces cocoa in small quantities. Some of the major cocoa-producing states are Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.

Economic Importance of Cocoa Cultivation

First of all, cocoa is a companion cash crop and is irrigated with coconut and areca nut gardens because it needs partial shade. Additionally, different value-added cocoa products like cocoa powder and butter have huge export potential.

Africa holds a dominant position with almost 70% of production volumes, 40% coming from the Côte d’Ivoire. And the USA and European countries are the major importer countries of cocoa. Currently, Eastern Europe and Asia are the most emerging markets of cocoa.

Health Benefits of Cocoa

  • First of all, cocoa aids in lowering blood pressure and improving the elasticity of blood vessels.
  • Also, cocoa offers anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-carcinogenic, and antioxidant qualities.
  • The flavanol-rich cocoa may aid in maintaining a healthy brain.
  • The consumption of cocoa has been shown to be effective in improving insulin resistance and glucose metabolism.
  • Additionally, cacao beans contain xanthine and theophylline, which aid in relaxing bronchial spasms and opening constricted bronchial tubes.
  • Also, cocoa helps to prevent high-fat-diet-induced obesity.

Things to Consider in Commercial Cocoa Cultivation

First of all, commercial cultivation includes different types of costs. So, financial planning is essential in commercial farming.

You can consider cocoa cultivation with other crops like coconut to get the maximum profitability from a particular area of land.

Before initiating the plantation, test the soil of the land. It will help you in plant protection and nutrient management.

In the commercial cocoa plantation, you must concentrate on the marketing of cocoa beans. Generally, small-scale cocoa product manufacturers are the major consumers of cocoa beans.

Best Varieties of Cocoa

There are three varietal types in cocoa namely Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario. Also, there is some improved Indian variety of cocoa.

CCRP I

It comes with green medium-sized pods. and it changes to yellow on ripening. The trees are self-incompatible. Generally, the mature pods weigh 385 gm with 46 beans. On average, a tree yields 56 pods per year with a yield potential of 72 pods.

CCRP IV

This variety comes with purple-tinged large pods. And it turns yellow on ripening. Generally, the mature pods weigh 402 gm with 45 beans. On average, a tree yields 66 pods per year with a yield potential of 93 pods.

CCRP V

This variety comes with elliptical green large pods. The pods turn yellow on ripening. Generally, the mature pods weigh 425 gm with 45 beans and 0.8 gm oven-dry bean weight. The average yield is 38 pods per tree per year with a yield potential of 55 pods.

CCRP VI

it comes with very big-sized pods. Mature pods weigh 895 gm with 48 beans and 1.9 gm after oven dry. The average yield is 50 pods per tree per year with a total yield potential of 180 pods.

CCRP VII

Basically, it comes with large, elongated green pods. Generally, the mature pods weigh 526 gm with 47 beans and 0.9 gm after oven dry. The average yield 78 pods per tree with a yield potential of 95 pods.

Indonesia

DR-1, DR-2, DR-21, and DR-35 are resistant to the cocoa moth.

Trinidad

ICS-1, ICS-45, and ICS-92 are high-yielding selections showing varying degrees of tolerance to witch’s broom.

Some of the drought-tolerant varieties are NC 23, NC 29, NC 31, NC 39, and NC 42.

Agroclimatic Condition for Cocoa Cultivation

First of all, you can grow cocoa at altitudes up to 900m. The tree can’t withstand high winds, drought, or sudden fall in temperature. Additionally, it grows well in regions where the temperature ranges from 10° to 38°C. Cocoa prefers well-distributed rains. The requires a minimum of 100 to 150 cm rainfall per annum. Also, the crop prefers a relative humidity of 80%.

Suitable Soil for Cocoa Cultivation

You can grow cocoa successfully in a wide range of soils. However, well-drained, rich soils, acidic to neutral in the reaction are the best suited. Additionally, the soil must have a minimum soil depth of 1.5 m. Very coarse sandy soils are not suitable for cocoa plantations. Furthermore, pH ranging from 4.5- 8.0 with the optimum being 6.5- 7.0 is suitable for commercial plantation.

Basic Cocoa Cultivation & Plantation Steps

Tissue Culture in Cocoa Plantation

You can opt for micropropagation for mass multiplication of elite materials as a supplement of conventional propagation. In most cases, cotyledonary tissues show the best response to callus induction.

Propagation

You can opt for both seed and vegetative propagation in the commercial cocoa plantation. Generally, seed propagation is desirable to collect the seeds for biclonal and polyclonal seed gardens. The seeds start germinating in about a week. About 90% of seeds germinate in this process. Then, you will need to transplant the seeds in perforated polythene bags. Generally, you can plant the four to six months old seedlings in the main field.

For a large-scale plantation, you must go for vegetative propagation. Through vegetative propagation by budding, rooting of cuttings, and grafting are feasible, budding is widely popular.

Planting

In soils of low fertility and gravelly lateritic zones, dig the pits of 50 cm X 50 cm X 50 cm size. hen, fill them with a mixture of topsoil and organic manure. In soils of good texture and depth, there is no significant advantage out of making big planting pits. Additionally, you must plant on the soil surface, since, feeding roots are confined to the surface irrespective of the depth of planting.

Aftercare & Management on Cocoa Plantation

Immediately after planting, you must mulch the basins with organic manure. Remove the shoots which emerge from the lower portions of the bud patch periodically. Actually, it ensures the healthy growth of scion shoot. During the first 3 to 4 years of planting, it is essential to keep the field weed-free.

Manuring & Fertilization

According to the soil test report, you will need to apply manure and fertilizers. Generally, you can apply NPK fertilizer in 2 equal split doses. In trees that yield more than 60 pods per year, double the dose. Also, you can apply dolomite @ 100gm per plant per year from the third year onwards. Generally, the best method of fertilizer application is to rake in and mix fertilizers with soil in shallow basins of 150 cm radius for grown-up plants.

Pruning in Cocoa Plantation

Cocoa grows naturally in tires. Under good management and adequate shade, its plants grow at a height of 1 – 1.5 m producing 3 to 5 fan branches. For convenience, you must restrict the growth to one tier at a convenient height. You must do pruning and shaping of grown-up plants gradually without much shock to the bearing plants.

Irrigation in Cocoa Plantation

Under the condition of well-distributed rainfall, cocoa grows up well as a rain-fed crop. In that case, you may not need to provide irrigation. In areas where the rain-free period extends to 4 to 6 months, you will need to provide supplemental irrigation. Generally, you may provide irrigation once in 5 days. It helps in better growth of plants and precocity in bearing.

Top Working in Cocoa Plantation

Generally, top working is very useful to rejuvenate old and unproductive cocoa plants. Also, it converts genetically poor yielders to high yielders. After the pre-monsoon shower is the best time for top working in cocoa. The top working technique consists of snapping back the desired trees below after cutting halfway.

Plant Protection

Generally, plant protection includes protecting your cocoa farm from harmful pests and diseases. There are several potential pests and insects you can find. So, you must have the financial arrangements for protecting the farm.

Harvesting & Post-harvest Management

Generally, the cocoa pods take 150 to 170 days from pollination to harvesting. You can judge the stage of maturity of pods best by the color change of the pods. You can store the harvested pods for up to 4 days. Generally, it enhances the pre-fermentation activity inside pods and helps to get good quality cured beans. You can break the pods by hitting them against a hard surface. And finally, extract the beans without placenta and keep them for fermentation immediately.

In the commercial cocoa plantation, proper plant protection is essential to get optimum profits. And you must control the cocoa pests and diseases properly. This article includes the detailed cocoa pests and diseases management guide for sustainable farming.

Generally, proper management of pests and diseases helps to reduce the damage. Hence, it ensures better yield and profitability. So, in initiating a commercial cocoa plantation business, you must have a clear conception of the potential harmful pests and diseases and control methods. Actually, there are over 1500 insects in different cocoa-growing countries.

List of Potential Cocoa Pests & Diseases

#1. Black Pod Disease (Phytophthora Palmivora)

Actually, this is the most important disease of cocoa in all cocoa-growing regions. And it becomes severe in the rainy season. Pods of all age groups are susceptible to this disease.

Generally, circular brown spots appear. And it enlarges concentrically and evenly covering the whole pod surface. Ultimately, the color of pods becomes dark brown or black. In immature pods, beans remain partly or wholly unaffected.

How to Control?

First of all, you must remove the infected pods as and when they appear on the tree. Additionally, the provision of good drainage and aeration in the garden is important during the monsoon period. Also, you can spray the Bordeaux mixture 1% with adhesive before the onset of monsoon immediately after removing infected pods.

#2. Vascular-streak Die-Back (Oncobasidium Theobromae)

Generally, this disease occurs on the main stem of seedlings or on a branch of an older tree. The first symptom is the yellowing of one leaf. Usually, the second or third behind the growing tip with the development of green spots or islets scattered over the yellow background.

Generally, the infected leaves fall off within a few days, and subsequently leaves above and below it, turn yellow and shed. It results in a distinctive situation where the youngest and the oldest leaves on a branch are still present while all the middle ones have fallen.

Leaf scars from the fall-off of chlorotic leaves are sometimes covered by a white, loosely adherent fruiting body of the fungus. If the diseased stem is split longitudinally, the xylem appears as discolored brown streaks.

How to Control?

You may find effective pruning the plants 30 cm below the discoloration of vascular tissue. Also, you can consider the application of the Bordeaux mixture 1% at 45 days interval from the onset of monsoon to prevent its spread.

Fan branches and small twigs are generally infested by the pathogen. It is severe during heavy rains. The first indication of the disease is the death of the branch. generally, you can notice characteristic pinkish encrustation of fruiting bodies of the fungus on the bark of infected branches. Finally, it turns greyish-white. Before the appearance of visible external symptoms, many fine, white, silky mycelia already spread over the surface. And into the cortex of the bark leading to defoliation and death of the distal part of the branch.

first of all, remove and destroy all the infected and dried branches. Apply Bordeaux paste at the fork region and at the cut ends of twigs. Additionally, spray with Bordeaux mixture 1% before the onset of monsoon.

#3. Charcol Pod Rot (Botryodiplodia Theobromae)

Actually, this disease is characterized by the formation of water-soaked lesions on pods either at the tip or stalk end at all stages of maturity. Initially, the lesion is chocolate-brown and then dark. In due course, the complete pod develops a black sooty appearance as a result of the formation of dark-colored spores of the fungus all over the pod surface.

How to Control?

Remove all the infected pods and spray with Bordeaux mixture 1%.

#4. Colletotrichum Pad Rot (Colletotrichum gleosporioides)

Generally, the initial symptoms appear as chlorotic spots on the surface of the pods. And it later turns to dark brown and necrotic. The spots enlarge in a circular manner surrounded by a prominent chlorotic yellow halo.

Fully developed spots are dark brown and depressed in nature. It later coalesces to cover large areas on the surface of the pod. Additionally, pink-colored fructifications of the fungus develop on the necrotic spots. In the advanced stage, the pods dry and remain as a mummified structure on the tree.

How to Control?

Remove the infected pods and spray with captafol 0.2% or Bordeaux mixture 1%.

#5. Red Borer (Zeuzera coffeae)

Larvae burrow into the main stem of young plants and fan shoots of older trees. It causes drying up.

How to Control?

Prune off and burn affected fan shoots. Also, you can spray Carbaryl 0.1% on the main stems of young plants as a prophylactic measure.

#6. Tea Mosquito (Helopeltis Antonii)

The bugs mainly attack the pods. Circular water-soaked spots develop on the infested pods, around the feeding punctures. and it later turns pitch black in color, causing the deformity of the fruits.

How to Control?

You can control the pest by spraying Endosulfan 0.05%.

#7. Mealy Bugs (Planococcus Lilacinus)

The bugs occur in Cherelles, developing pods and shoots and de sap the tissues leading to the formation of scabs. Generally, this pest occurs throughout the year but attains peak population levels during July-October.

How to Control?

You can control it by spot application of Quinalphos 0.025% or Phosalone 0.1%.

#8. Grey Weevil ( Myltocerus spp)

A number of species of Myltocerus weevils infest cocoa. The attack is severe on young plants. Additionally, the peak period of infestation occurs from July to September. The adults occur in groups on the underside of leaves and feed on the green matter leaving the veins intact.

How to Control?

Spray Carbaryl 0.1% or Fenthion 0.05% on the under the surface of foliage twice a year during May and September.

#9. Aphids (Toxoptera Aurantii)

Generally, the colonies of pink aphids infest flower stalks, tender leaves, and shoots. On leaves, aphids are confined to the lower surface.

How to Control?

In this case, chemical control is not essential. You must collect and destroy the severely affected plant’s part immediately.

#10. Cock-chaffer Beetle (Leucopholis spp)

The grubs feed on the surface roots of young cocoa plants and sometimes on grown-up plants causing wilting. Generally, the infestation is more frequent in the coconut-cocoa intercropping situation. Because the same pest attacks coconut as well.

How to Control?

You can protect the seedlings by application of Carbaryl 10% DP @ 10 gm per pit. Also, you can drench the grown-up plants with the wettable formulation of Carbaryl 0.1%.

#11. Red Banded Thrips

Adults and nymphs of the thrips appear in colonies on the undersurface of leaves and pods. They feed on fluid excluding the scrapped tissues. Generally, infected leaves turn pale-green to pale-brown and dry up later.

How to Control?

You can control this by the application of Quinalphos 0.05%, Phosalone, or Fenthion.

#12. Storage Cocoa Pests

When you store the cocoa beans for more than 2 months, you may find damaged beans. There are several cocoa pests and insects behind this damage.

However, the rice meal moth (Corcyron Cephalonica) is the most important one. The larvae of the moth feed on the internal contents of the beans and construct silken galleries using frass and broken down particles of the beans.

How to Control?

You can mix the cocoa beans with neem leaves for long-term storage @ 2% by weight. Generally, it helps to protect the beans for up to 6 months.

#13. Non-insect Cocoa Pests

Stripped squirrels and rats cut irregular holes on the walls of maturing pods and extract the contents completely. Additionally, they feed on mucilaginous pulp around beans.

How to Control?

Considerably, you can reduce the damage by harvesting the pods at the right stage when burrows start bronzing. Also, poison baiting with Fumarian bars is quite useful.

#14. Civet Cat (Paradoxus hermaphoditus)

They gnaw holes on the pods, bite and break the husk. The civets swallow the beans and as such no trace of beans will be visible under the tree. Instead, piles of defecated beans are seen scattered around the farm.

How to Control?

Generally, you can control the civet cats by poison baiting ripe bananas with Carbofuran.

#15. Physiological Disorder

Actually, Cherelle wilts is a physiological disorder characterized by the drying and wilting of young pods. And wilted pods remain attached to the tree. Competition for carbohydrates when the tree is overloaded with pods and mineral nutrients are major causes.

How to Control?

You can control this situation by applying the right nutrients and fertilizer according to the soil test report.

Generally, the harvested beans need fermentation. And also you can consider initiating a cocoa processing unit to produce different value-added products from your cocoa plantation business.

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