A review coordinated by Bioversity International reports on the current technologies used to propagate improved cacao planting materials, and the prospects for improving and scaling up these mechanisms to meet the increasing demand of cocoa.
Global demand for cocoa has grown consistently over the years. Estimates by the International Cocoa Organization suggest that this trend will continue, and countries such as India and China will require a rise of 25% on today’s production.
In several countries, production levels of cocoa are under threat for several reasons: ageing tree stocks, pests and diseases, declining soil fertility and the use of non-improved planting materials. Increasing the use of better planting material is essential not only to keep pace with the rising demand for cocoa, but also to make cocoa production more sustainable. Higher-yielding varieties that are able to resist attacks from pests and diseases would reduce deforestation and the environmental footprint for cocoa production, and allow other tree crops to be grown in the same growing areas.
A major obstacle in achieving a higher and more sustainable cocoa production is the capacity to supply significant volumes of improved planting material and cacao plants to farmers.
Coordinated by Bioversity International, Supplying new cocoa planting material to farmers: a review of propagation methodologies reports on the current technologies used to propagate improved planting materials, and the prospects for improving and scaling up these mechanisms to meet the increasing demand.
“The purpose of this work is to present an impartial, evidence-based review of cacao propagation methods,” explains Brigitte Laliberté, Bioversity International scientist and editor of the book. “This will serve as a basis for assessing and implementing strategies that provide farmers with quality planting materials adapted to current and future needs. We hope that the information in the review will make its way into national cocoa plans, and help to make cocoa farming more attractive and more sustainable.”
The review describes the various methods currently available for the production and supply of large numbers of cacao plants to growers, detailing various approaches and describing the advantages and challenges of each.
“All cocoa-producing countries need a policy for developing or acquiring better planting material, and a strategy on how to propagate it and supply plants to farmers. This principle is repeatedly highlighted at international conferences and in discussions with cocoa-sector stakeholders. Regardless of production volumes or status of producing countries, it is not sustainable to have farms with old, poorly producing trees,” concludes Stephan Weise, Bioversity International Deputy Director General-Research.
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Photo: Farmer in Ghana prunes his Carabobo cacao tree, originally from Venezuela. Please credit: Bioversity International/R. Markham