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Beverages and Stimulants

COCOA (Theobroma cacao)


The cocoa tree flourishes in the dense shade of warm rain forests in its natural habitat and hence can be cultivated in all similar climatic conditions. The tree cannot withstand high winds, drought or sudden fall in temperature. The crop requires well-distributed rainfall. The minimum requirement of rainfall is about 100-150 cm per annum. Situations where the temperature falls below 10°C or rises above 38°C are unfavourable although minor deviations from the above limit can be adjusted by shade and irrigation. High wind velocity causes considerable mechanical damage to trees.

Cocoa is grown at altitude up to 900 m above MSL though it is possible to grow the crop even in much higher elevations under sheltered conditions.

The best soil for cocoa is forest soil rich in humus. The soil should allow easy penetration of roots and capable of retaining moisture during summer. Clay loams, loams and sandy loams are suitable. Shallow soils should be avoided.


 Cocoa can be propagated by seed and vegetative means.

Seed propagation
It is desirable to collect seeds from biclonal or polyclonal seed gardens involving superior self-incompatible parents to ensure genetic superiority of planting materials. Polyclonal and biclonal seed gardens have been established at CCRP farm of the Kerala Agricultural University, Vellanikkara and Kidu farm of CPCRI and seeds and seedlings are being supplied to growers. If seeds cannot be procured from such seed gardens, mother plants for collection of seeds may be selected based on the following criteria:

(1) Trees of Forastero type having medium or large pods of not less than 350 g weight or 400 cc volume, green in colour when immature, having smooth or shallow furrows on the surface without prominent constriction at the neck should be selected. Yield of pods should be not less than 100 per year.
(2) Husk thickness of pods to be not more than 1 cm.
(3) Pod value (number of pods to give 1 kg wet beans) to be not more than 12.
(4) Number of beans per pod to be not less than 35.
(5) Bean dry weight to be not less than 1 g.

Seeds lose viability within a week of harvest of pods. Seeds are to be sown immediately after extraction from the pods. Viability of the beans can be extended for some more days if freshly extracted seeds are stored in moist charcoal and packed in polybags. Other alternative is extracting beans, removing the testa and packing in polythene bags.
Selection of planting materials
When seedlings are used for planting, select only vigorous and healthy seedlings produced from polyclonal seed garden or selected mother plants as described earlier.
When budded plants are used, select two or more clones for planting as the use of a single clone can lead to poor production due to the existence of self-incompatibility in cocoa.



Though three varietal types viz., Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario are recognized, only Forastero types are known to perform well under Indian conditions. Breeding work initiated at the Kerala Agricultural University since 1979 has resulted in the release of seven improved clones of Forastero type. These are CCRP 1, CCRP 2, CCRP 3, CCRP 4, CCRP 5, CCRP 6 and CCRP 7. These improved clones are suitable for cultivation in different cocoa growing tracts of the country and also in the warm tropical areas especially under the shade of coconut. All these clones are tolerant to vascular streak dieback and have yield potential in the range from 55 to 180 pods per tree per year and mean yield from 38 to 78 pods per tree per year. During 2002, three hybrids viz., CCRP 8, CCRP 9 and CCRP 10 were released. These have mean yields of 90, 105 and 79 pods per tree per year. These are also tolerant to vascular streak dieback disease.

Cocoa is highly cross pollinated and growing of different varieties adjacent to each other must be encouraged so as to achieve maximum fruit set and yield realization.



Selection of site
Cocoa is usually planted under coconut and arecanut plantations in India. Shade levels under coconut canopy are highly variable depending mainly on the spacing of coconut, extent of canopy development and age of palms. It is estimated that light infiltration through coconut canopy ranges from about 30 to 80 per cent depending upon these factors. Based on this, the general recommendation is as follows:

1. If a choice is possible, a coconut plantation that will let in more light through the canopy may be chosen for raising cocoa.
2. If the light infiltration is over 50 per cent, it may be beneficial to provide additional shade using temporary shade plants like banana.

Preparation of land
The seedlings / budded clones are usually planted in the interspaces of coconut / arecanut. Give a spacing of 3 to 4.5 m. The crop is best grown with 50 per cent light intensity in the early stages. In the early life of the plants, planting of quick growing plants like banana and tapioca can provide temporary shade.
Time of sowing
Though the seeds will germinate at any time of the year, seeds may preferably be sown by December-January, so that 4-6 month old seedlings become available for planting by May-June.

Method of sowing
Seeds are to be sown with hilum-end down or to be sown flat. Sowing is to be as shallow as to just cover the seeds with soil. Removal of pulp may enhance the speed of germination, but the extent of additional advantage is only marginal. Seeds start germination in about a week and germination may continue for another one week. Percentage of germination may be around 90.

Cocoa nursery is to be located in a heavily shaded area, which allows only 25-50 per cent sunlight. Regular watering is necessary to keep the soil moist.

Seedlings are transplanted after 4-6 months. Only vigorous seedlings are to be used and based on height and stem girth, 25% poor seedlings may be rejected. When seedlings are grown under heavy shade, hardening for 10 days by exposing to higher illumination may be necessary before transplanting.

Vegetative propagation
In view of the high variability exhibited by seedling progenies, vegetative propagation is preferred for large scale planting. Though vegetative propagation of cocoa by budding, rooting of cuttings and grafting are feasible, the widely accepted method in India is budding.

Scions for budding are to be collected from high yielding, disease resistant elite plants. Shoots having brown bark and just hardened leaves are selected as bud wood. Scions are preferably procured by cutting off lamina of all the leaves of the selected scion shoot to a distance of about 30 cm from the tip. After 10 days when the petioles have fallen off, these scion shoots are cut and used for budding immediately. Bud wood can be stored by dipping in benzyl chloride followed by washing in water and then sealing the cut ends using molten wax. Bud wood is then wrapped in moist cotton wool and in turn in wet tissue paper or blotting paper and packed in boxes with wet packing material. The packet is then covered using polythene sheets. Storage life of the bud wood can be extended up to 10 days by this method. As far as possible, bud wood is to be collected from chupons as those produced from fans may develop into bushy plants with spreading habit. Rootstock, six to twelve months old may be selected in such a way that scion and rootstock are of the same thickness. Different successful methods include T, inverted T, patch, and modified Forkert methods. Patch budding is adopted in the Kerala Agricultural University.

Patch budding method consists of removing a patch of about 2.5 cm length and 0.5 cm width from the rootstocks, preparing a bud patch of 2.5 cm length and 0.5 cm width from the bud wood and inserting it into the rootstock and tying firmly with polythene tape. After three weeks, if there is bud-take, polythene tape is removed; a vertical cut is made half way through the stem above the bud and is snapped back. The snapped root stock portion is cut back after the bud has grown to a shoot and at least two leaves have hardened. It is then allowed to grow for a further period of three to six months after which they are transplanted. Under normal conditions, success can be around 70-90 per cent.

Time and method of planting
Raising cocoa as a pure crop is not recommended especially in Kerala due to high pressure on land. Cocoa is planted as an intercrop in coconut and arecanut gardens. In coconut, depending upon the spacing adopted, one or two rows of cocoa can be planted in between two rows of coconut i.e., two rows where the spacing is more than 8 m and one row otherwise, the plant distance for cocoa being 2.7 to 3 m. When two-row system is adopted, the seedlings may be planted in zigzag or triangular manner.

In arecanut where the normal spacing is 2.7 m, cocoa is planted at the centre of four areca palms along alternate rows of interspaces only. Pits of 50 x 50 x 50 cm are dug, allowed to weather for one month and refilled with topsoil and 15-20 kg of compost or farm yard manure to ground level. The planting hole should be sufficient to hold the soil ball of the polybag. Tear off the polybags carefully, place the soil ball with the seedlings in the planting hole with minimum disturbance and press the soil around firmly. Planting should coincide with the onset of monsoon, but in places where irrigation is resorted to, flexibility in the time of planting is possible.

Shaping of clonal plants derived from fan shoots
Budded plants from fan shoots have diffuse branching system and bushy growth habit. This type of growth causes difficulties in carrying out cultural operations and harvesting. If a better shape of the plant is desired, appropriate formation pruning may be necessary. This involves identification of a chupon arising from a fan shoot, allowing it to grow and removing the original, lower fan-like shoots in stages. This, however, has to be done slowly as an early drastic pruning will inhibit growth.

Pruning and training
Cocoa grows in a series of storeys, the chupon or vertical growth of the seedling terminating at the jorquette from where four to five fan branches develop. Further vertical growth is continued through a side chupon that arises from a point just below the jorquette which again jorquettes after growing to some height. Left for it, the plant will grow to a height of 8-10 m repeating this process of jorquetting and chupon formation 3-5 times. When cocoa is grown as an intercrop in coconut and arecanut plantation, it is desirable to restrict the growth to one tier formed at a convenient height preferably above the head level of the workers. When jorquetting takes place at lower levels this can be raised by nipping off all the fan branches and allowing one chupon to develop and grow further to jorquette at the desired height. After this is achieved, further vertical growth is arrested through periodical removal of chupons.

The intensity of pruning is to be decided by the nature of growth of individual trees, shade intensity, growth of the companion crops etc. In the early stages, pruning is done to give a particular shape to the tree. After the establishment of the trees in the garden, prune them to the extent of retaining only the required number of leaves (20-30 leaves per developing pod). Removal of secondary branches from the centre should be restricted only to those trees growing in excess shade.

Top working
This technique is useful to rejuvenate old and unproductive cocoa plants and also to convert genetically poor yielders to high yielders. This consists of snapping back the desired trees below the jorquette after cutting half way. The snapped canopy continues to have contact with the trunk. A number of chupons would arise below the point of snapping and this is triggered by the breakage of apical dominance and continued connection with the snapped canopy. Patch budding as described earlier may be done on three to four vigorous and healthy shoots using scions from high yielding, disease resistant clones and the remaining chupons are removed. The polythene tape is removed three weeks after budding and the stock portion above the bud union is snapped back. The snapped portion is removed after two hardened leaves develop from the bud. When sufficient shoots are hardened, canopy of the mother tree can be completely removed. Because of the presence of an established root system and the trunk with reserve food, the top worked trees grow much faster and give prolific yield one year after the operation. Though top working can be done in all seasons, it is preferable to do it in rain-free period in irrigated gardens. For rainfed situations, it may preferably be done after the receipt of pre-monsoon showers.

Top worked trees start yielding heavily from the second year onwards. About 50 per cent improved yield is obtained in the second year and about 100 per cent improved yield in the third year. Loss of crop for one year during the operation is compensated by bumper crop in the coming years. The main stem will continue to belong to the older plant and fruits borne on this area belong to the poor yielder. Better yields are however obtained from the fan branches of the high yielding clone used for top working.



Cocoa grows well as a rainfed crop under conditions of well-distributed rainfall and irrigation is not necessary. If sufficient moisture is not present in the soil due to prolonged drought or failure of rains, irrigation is to be given once in five days. Irrigation, however, helps in better growth of plants and precocity in bearing.


Apply N:P2O5:K2O in two equal split doses in April-May and September-October, @ 100:40: 140 g / tree / year. N:P2O5:K2O may be applied @ 200:80:280 g / plant / year, in trees yielding more than 50 fruits per year. Dolomite @ 100 g / plant / year may be applied to plants from the third year onwards.

Under irrigated conditions, the yearly dose may be split into four and applied during April-May, September-October, December and February-March.

Apply 1/3 of adult dose during the first year of planting, 2/3 during second year and full dose from the third year onwards.

Apply fertilizers in circular basins with a radius of 25 cm during the first year. Gradually increase the radius of the basin to 120 cm by the third year. Apply fertilizers in the entire area of 1.5 m radius around the tree followed by forking in.

Plants showing zinc deficiency symptoms (narrowing of leaves, sickle leaf formation, green vein banding, chlorosis in the interveinal areas) should be sprayed with 0.5 to 1.5% ZnSO4 three times a year.


After cultivation
During the first three or four years after planting, it is essential to keep the field free from weeds. Maintenance and regulation of shade should be carried out promptly. During the establishment phase of the crop particularly in summer, provide mulching with materials like chopped banana sheath, coconut husk, cocoa husk etc. to conserve moisture in conditions of direct insolation. A mature cocoa plantation should form a proper canopy, which will be dense enough to prevent weed growth. Operations such as pruning and regulation of shade should be attended to in time.




Red borer (Zeuzera coffeae)
Larvae burrow into the main stem of young plants and fan shoots of older trees, causing drying up.


Prune off and burn affected fan shoots. Spray carbaryl 0.1% on the main stems of young plants as a prophylactic measure.

Striped squirrel (Funambulus sp.)
The squirrels gnaw the bronzing pods and extract the beans along with mucilaginous pulp.


Harvest the crop just when bronzing is visible in the pod furrows. Mechanical protection of the pods can be ensured by covering them with punched polybags (150 gauge) smeared with bitumen-kerosene mixture.

Rats (Rattus rattus)
Rats are serious pests in densely planted coconut gardens with cocoa as an intercrop. They inhabit the coconut palm crowns and descend during night and cause damage to pods. Nature of damage is similar to that caused by squirrels.


Baiting with anticoagulant rodenticides in the garden is recommended. Rain-proof preparations are to be used. Tie fumarin bars (rain-proof) on the base of an inner frond of coconut. Set up bamboo traps with bow attachment on the crown of palms.

Myllocerus weevils (Myllocerus viridanus)
Adults skeletonise the foliage and this is serious in young plants during July-September. Spray undersurfaces of the foliage with fenitrothion 0.05%, quinalphos 0.025% or fenthion 0.05%.

Mealy bugs (Planococcus citri and Rastrococcus sp.)
The bugs occur in cherelles, developing pods and shoots and de-sap the tissues. This can be controlled by spot application of quinalphos 0.025% or phosalone 0.1%.

Aphids (Toxoptera aurantii)
Colonies of pink aphids occur ventrally on the leaves of chupon shoot. Tender shoots are also damaged.


Nip off the flaccid leaves along with the shoots and destroy the colonies.

Cockchafer beetle (Popillia sp. and Leucopholis sp.)
Grubs feed on the roots of freshly planted seedlings causing wilting. Apply carbaryl 10% DP at 10 g per pit around freshly planted seedlings.
The pods are damaged by Helopeltis sp.


Disease Management


Seedling blight (Phytophthora palmivora)
The symptoms develop on the leaves and stem of the seedlings or budded plants. On leaves, small water-soaked lesions appear which later coalesce resulting in the blightening of leaves. On stem, water-soaked linear lesions develop initially and later turn to black colour. Stem infection develops at any point on the stem causing the death of seedlings / budded plants.


Remove and destroy severely affected seedlings. Improve drainage and adjust shade. Spray with 1% Bordeaux mixture or