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Cocoa Production

Ecological Requirements of Cocoa Production

Agro-ecological Requirements of the Cocoa Tree

by Joachim Milz

The lifecycle of a cocoa tree can span well over a hundred years. Cocoa grown in a sustainable multi-layer forest system has a good economic potential. Considerable increase of yields has been reported in organic cultivation (EL CEIBO Cooperative - Bolivia, CONACADO Association - Dominican Republic, Facenda Tres Colinas, Agrossilvicultura Ltda.-Brazil). Up to more than 1000 kg dry beans/ha have been achieved by organic cocoa farmers in Bolivia and Brazil without any external inputs. Additionally, it holds an enormous potential for environmental and cultural conservation in regions under intense pressure from conventional mono-crop agriculture (Milz, J. personal observations, Schulz, B. et.al. 1994). The natural habitat of cocoa plants is the tropical rainforest where it predominantly occurs in alluvial forests within the sphere of influence of the rivers. Both the annual floods and the higher wind speeds above the water lead to a regular rejuvenation of these ecosystems. With a height of up to 9 metres, the cocoa plant is a small understory tree of the primary forest. It is associated with a vast mixture of tree species providing a stratified forest structure and a constantly high input of organic matter (Götsch, E. 1994; Milz, J. 1995, 1996, 2002, 2006 . Osterroth, M., 2002, Peneireiro Mongeli, F. 1999) The cocoa tree has to be considered therefore as a “non timber forest product”. To grow cocoa in a sustainable and healthy way, it is indispensable to design agroforestry systems which are close to the structure of local native forests, respecting a high biodiversity and stratification of the production system. A large diversity of species is important for the stability of the agroforestry ecosystem. Each individual occupies an appropriate niche and thereby fulfils a particular eco-physiological function within the system. The more complex the design of an agro-ecosystem the fewer interventions are required to regulate diseases and pests in cocoa production: (Götsch, E. 1994; Milz, J. 2006; Osterroth, M.; Osterroth, M. 2002; Peneireiro Mongeli, F. 1999). Succession Agroforestry Systems correspond in a perfect manner to these requirements

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