Propagation by seeds

Quality production and income generation in any crop starts with ensuring the best quality available for the variety of the crop being produced. Aside from selection of variety, th propagation techniques and nursery management will be described in this section.

  1. Collect seeds only from ripe and healthy pods.
  2. Select seeds that are uniform in size. Discard seeds that are swollen and of different shape.
  3. Select bigger seeds since the possibility high that they would produce vigorous and fast growing seedlings are high.
  4. Remove mucilage that covers the seeds by rubbing the seeds with sawdust or sand.
  5. Wash the seeds to effectively remove the mucilage.
  6. Cacao seeds are sensitive to fungal attacks and could lead to non-germination. It is best to soak cleaned seeds in fungicide solution for about 10 minutes. Follow strictly instructions indicated in labels.
  7. Spread the seeds on wet sacks and cover with wet newspaper for 24 hrs.
  8. Keep it moist but well ventilated to avoid formation of fungi.
  9. Start collecting seeds that show sign of germination (a pig tail-like root appears on one side). Usually, germination starts after two days10
  10. Sow the pre-germinated seeds not more than 1 cm deep in prepared polybags. Be sure seeds are sown with the pigtail-root pointed downwards.
  11. Use select 8″ x 10″ polybags. The soil must reach 2 to 3 cm from the top of the plastic bag.


Mix completely composted organic materials to improve the soil characteristics such as water holding capacity, nutrient content and soil texture. If possible sterilize soil by boiling soil with water in drums or other convenient containers. In some cases, spraying formaline solutions also help sterilize soils. Cheapest way to sterilize soil is the use solar drying. Loamy to sandy loam soils are the most suitable medium in terms of physical property for raising seedlings.Liming is used for soils with less than pH 5.

Nursery Establishment for Cacao Seedlings

Similar to most tree crop nurseries, young seedlings will require ample shading, constant supply of clean water and drainage. The following are general characteristics of nursery good for cacao seedlings.

  1. Choose site which are near roads so that new roads will not be necessary.
  2. Choose flat grounds. Work area must not entail more effort from uneven ground work place.
  3. Availability of quality water sources like good water table for shallow wells, presence of irrigation canals or other natural water source like river or creeks. Also, free from saline waters.Free from water-logging and presence of nearby drainage facilities.
  4. For cacao seedlings, shading material is a must. 0 to 2 month old seedlings require 70 to 80% shade. However, gradual removal of shading is recommended to prepare seedlings for field planting. Shading materials may use materials in the vicinity of the nursery itself. This is to avoid additional expenditures.

The period of keeping the seedlings in the nursery affects the arrangement of the bags. Polybag arrangement must be systematically carried out to facilitate maintenance and grafting. Normally, a twin row with alternate path of 45 cm in width is recommended. In order to enhance the seedling growth and to avoid the seedling etiolation, the seedlings are usually spaced further apart from each other when the seedlings are 2 to 3 months old. The distance is 25 to 30 cm apart starting from the middle point of the polybag. The distance gradually increases when the seedlings are kept in the nursery for a longer period


Weeds do not normally cause problems in the nursery and those that appear can be removed without much expenditure on labor. On the other hand, weeds growing along spaces in between the blocks may be controlled by cutting down with scythes. The use of herbicide is not recommended. Therefore weeding could be done manually or by mulching with available materials such as rice hull.


Fertilizer application is carried out after the first leaf hardens and should be based on the result of soil analysis. If analysis is not available, incorporate 15-35 grams of diammonium phosphate (18-48-0) per bag depending on the size of polybag. The use of granular fertilizer is also done when the leaves are dry to avoid leaf scorching.


To ensure uniform growth and development of the seedlings to be planted in the field, cull out the poor-growing seedlings in the nursery. This practice may be carried out by removing the bags containing seeds which did not germinate and small, crinkled seedlings.



To reduce the seedling shock during transplanting, it is necessary to rotate the polybag to a few degrees one week before field planting. It is done for the seedlings whose leaves have hardened and especially for those which roots have penetrated the ground. Watering has to be done for a few days later. Field planting must be started at the onset of the rainy season. Unless irrigation is available, field planting during the dry season is not advisable.

Choosing and Preparing the site

Choosing the site

If a cacao tree is to grow well it needs more than anything else a soil of good structure, permeable and deep.

  • The cocoa tree has tap-roots.
  • The tap-root descends straight into the soil.
  • The branch roots go down very deep.
  • But many small branch roots also grow near the surface.
  • If the soil is of good structure and contains much humus, the roots penetrate well.You can improve the soil structure by spreading manure and working it into the soil.
  • If the soil is deep, the roots can go down to a good depth.
  • Never plant cocoa trees in soil with a lot of stones, or in soil where there is some hard layer.
  • Clearing the site

Cacao plantation in forest regions it is a must to clear the site. But the Cacao tree needs a shade especially when it is young.

The traditional method to cut down all trees and to burn everything is a bad method due to the following reasons.

  • since you destroy organic matters in the weeds and branches.
  • You leave the soil bare to the sun and rain.
  • The soil becomes less fertile. The cacao trees are not protected from the sun when it is too strong.

Sometimes growers put banana trees or taros into the cocoa plantation, to give shade for the young cocoa trees. If these are planted long enough before the cocoa trees, they give good protection. But if they are planted at the same time as the cocoa trees, they do not protect the young cocoa trees well enough and they take nourishment out of the soil.

To give shade it Is better to keep a few of the forest trees.

  • You should cut first all the tall weeds, the creepers and the small trees.
  • Make heaps of what you have cut down and arrange the heaps in rows.
  • It is better not to burn all the vegetation you cut. to Leave it on the ground.
  • It protects the soil against erosion and sun.
  • It rots and makes humus.
  • If you have to burn the vegetation you have cut, you must sow a cover crop.

Next, go through the plantation a second time:

  • Now cut down all the trees which might give some disease to the cocoa trees. And cut down also all trees that give too much shade.But leave those large trees which can give no disease to the cocoa trees, and which give a little shade.
  • When the cocoa trees have grown taller, they need less shade. You should gradually give them less and less shade. You should prune the big trees and cut off those branches that cast too much shade.When the plantation is well cared for, you can cut down all the big trees.
  • When the cocoa trees have grown, it is better to get rid of the unwanted shade trees by using tree-killing chemical products. This way causes less damage than cutting them down.


Vegetative propagation gives more advantage in terms of reproduction of true-to-type trees, more uniform growth, early to bear flowers, and the clone perpetuates most if not all important characters of the original seedling mother tree like pod value, bean size, fruit wall thickness and others. Major consideration in vegetative propagation is the use of the selected varieties mentioned above.

1. Patch Budding – This is the propagation of true-to-type trees using buds from any of the nine NSIC approved clones.

2. Nodal Grafting – Propagation on the sides of the seedling using nodes.

3. Conventional cleft grafting – This propagation technique is similar to the procedure used in grafting mangoes. Rootstocks are cut horizontally leaving only two leaves behind. Scion of selected variety is attached to rootstocks with an inverted V shape and fastened to each other using thin plastic sheet covering all wounds to prevent drying.

*The success factors for all types of grafting and budding are:

1. Use healthy bud wood with active buds

2. Use budwood within 2 days of collection and store and transport in moist and cool conditions.

3. Do not collect bud wood from trees that are recovering from heavy cropping.

4. Make sure bud wood is of right age and thickness for the rootstock.

5. Only use a sharp knife and keep it only for grafting or budding- nothing else.

6. Clean knives and secateuers and other tools with alcohol, before and after grafting and budding, to minimise disease transfer.

7. Do not place tools onto the ground.

8. Avoid grafting in very hot and very dry periods, and also in very wet periods.

9. Make sure rootstock are the right age and condition for grafting and budding.

10. Manage shade and water very carefully.

Make a secure and evenly shaded nursery








Soil Requirement

Best soil is made-up of aggregated clay or loamy sand with

  • 50% sand
  • 30-40% clay, and
  • 10-20% silt.
  • Deep soil, about 150 cm, highly favors the growth of cacao.
  • pH = 5.0 to 6.5

Climatic Requirement

1. Ideal rainfall for cacao cultivation ranges from 1250 to 3000 mm per annum, preferably 1500-2000 mm with dry season of not more than 3 months.

2. Temperature ideal for cacao lies between a mean maximum of 30-32°C and mean minimum of 18°C.

3. Altitude of the area should lie between 300-1200 meters above sea level. Suitable temperature is generally found in an altitude up to 700 m.

4. Cacao thrives best in areas under Type IV climate which has an evenly distributed rainfall throughout the year.

Establishments of Shade Crops

The leaves of the cocoa seedlings are tender and will be burnt by direct sunlight. Therefore, in order to protect them and ensure their survival and health, the seedlings must be shaded from direct sunlight during the first few years. Direct sunlight shuts off the ability of cocoa leaves to produce carbohydrates through photosynthesis. Carbohydrate is the source of energy for growth. If no energy is produced, the tree cannot grow or produce cocoa pods.

Only older cocoa trees can survive the direct rays of the sun. The upper leaves, which receive direct sunlight, shade the lower leaves that provide energy for the tree and the cocoa fruit to grow. However, if there is too much shade, cocoa leaves cannot perform photosynthesis and there is no energy for growth.

Newly planted cocoa trees need 75% shade (25% direct sunlight overall) during their first year. This can be reduced to a 50% level of overall shade in their second year. After that, the pod bearing cocoa trees need to be shaded only about 25% density of direct sunlight for the rest of the cocoa tree’s life span.

Permanent shade crops that have a thin canopy, tall trunk and do not defoliate seasonally are ideal to intercrop with cocoa trees for long periods. Some suitable crop bearing varieties are coconut, cashew, longan, durian, mango and mangosteen. Both cacao and shade trees can be planted at 6 x 3 m.

In the case that shade crops (both temporary and permanent) do not create enough shade for cocoa seedlings growth, temporary structures can be made from other, easily available materials such as palm fronds, sugar cane leaf, and etc.

Staking and Spacing

1. Planting points are to be marked with stakes using suitable size and length of cable wire or guide from straight line planting.

2. Most common distance

-High density 1.5 to 2.0 x 6.0 m = 2,300 trees/ha. Double hedge row

– Medium density = 3 x 2m = 1666 plants/ha or 2.5 x 2.5 m = 1600 plants/ha

– Low Density 3×3 = 1000 plant/ha or 3 x2.5 triangular pattern =1258 plants/ha

3. Depending on the shade from existing trees and tree crops, and soil fertility, the planting density of cocoa varies from 400-1100 plants/ha.

4. In the case of intercropping in coconut and cashew, the density of cocoa averages about 600 plants/ha. Basal fertilizers are very important to enhance the growth of young cocoa trees in the establishment stage.


1. Right time to plant is during early morning or late afternoon.

2. It is not advisable to plant seedling with young and soft flush leaves as they are susceptible to sunburn, planting shocks or stress.

3. Best season to plant in the field is during the onset of rainy season.

4. Size of the hole should be big enough to accommodate the ball of the soil mass.

5. Normally, a hole of 30 cm wide x 30 cm long and 30 cm deep.

6. In holing, the surface of soil should be separated from the sub-soil.


Manual by ring weeding method 1 meter radius from the stem as removed with the use of sickle.



In the absence of soil analysis (PCARRD, 1989) recommended rates of fertilizer application for various ages of trees as shown below.

  • About 200 kg N, 25 kg P, 300 kg K and 140 kg Ca are needed per hectare to grow the trees prior to pod production.
  • For each 1000 kg of dry beans harvested, about 20 kg N, 4 kg P and 10 kg K is removed.
  • If the pod husks are also removed from the field, the amount of K removed increases to about 50 kg.

Soil and leaf analyses can be used to determine the nutritional needs of cocoa. Leaf analyses may be problematic because it is difficult to sample leaves of the same age and shading influences the nutrient composition of leaves.

Visual symptoms of mineral deficiencies are well documented and can be used as a qualitative guide to fertiliser requirements.



Cocoa propagated from seed is pruned to develop the preferred structure shown in the picture. Pruning is mainly used to limit tree height. The first jorquette should be formed at 1.5-2 m. Further chupons (suckers) are continually removed preventing subsequent jorquettes and restricting further vertical growth. It may be necessary to prune fan branches to maintain an even structure and remove low hanging branches. The end result is a tree with a canopy height that is convenient to manage. Vegetatively-propagated plants have a different structure and will require different management. There is little evidence that pruning strategies promote high yields. Mechanical pruning (hedging) is not practiced.

Pruning is done to increase cacao production. Reduce pest and diseases infestation. Control the shape and height of the tree. Control the shape and height of the tree, to ensure easy access for harvesting

1. Pruning cocoa trees can increase production, make tree maintenance easier, and reduce pest infestation and diseases

2. Maintenance pruning starts with regularly removing the low hanging branches or those that grow downwards.

3. Second remove regularly the chupons on the stem.

4. Also remove all shoots and additional branches that are within 60 cm of the jorquette. Removal of shoots is necessary to avoid production of non-essential branches.

5. Furthermore, it is important to remove regularly all dead, diseased and badly damaged branches.

6. Top pruning of the highest branches ( up to 4 meters) in order to keep the tree short for easy regular harvesting and maintenance.

7. In addition to this it is recommended to open the center of the tree by pruning in the shape of a champagne glass in order to reduce humidity and increase sunshine.

8. The cocoa pod borer does not like the sunshine and increased wind. The additional sunshine to the stem will increase flowering as well.

9. The best time for heavy pruning is after the high production cycle, approximately one month before the rainy season. After pruning it is recommended to apply fertilizer.

10. Pruning has to be done regularly and correctly, results in more pods on the tree with less infestation and diseases.



Cacao Pest in the Philippines

Most common cacao pests in the Philippines are: Cacao Pod Borer, Vascular Streak Dieback, Helopeltis and Cacao Stem Borer. Whereas, the most common cacao disease is Black Pod.

  1.  Cacao Pod Borer (Conopormorpha cramelerella)
    • Regular harvesting (weekly harvesting of all ripe pods) in order to break the lifecycle of the pest.
    • Sanitation; which includes to bury all empty cacao pod husks, but also to remove all other diseased pods, black pods, and pods eaten by animals from the trees
    • Pruning; to increase the sunlight, which the pest does not favor.
    • Bagging or sleeving of the young pods with newspaper and stapler (or plastic bag).
    • Fertilizer; to increase the general health of the tree and in addition increasing cacao production.
  2. Vascular Streak Dieback (caused by Oncobasidium theobromae)
    • Sanitation pruning – cut off infected branches at 30 cm below the infected area, and burn the infested cuttings
    • Nurseries should use polyethylene roofing to ensure spores cannot land on the seedlings
    • Shade on the cacao trees should be reduced to lower humidity
    • Plant VSD tolerant varieties such as hybrids PA 173 x SCA 9, PA 138 x SCA 9, ICS 39 x SCA 6, PA 156 x IMC 67, PA 156 x SCA 9, ICS 95 x SCA 6, clones PBC 123, PBC 159, ICS 95 and others.
  3. Black Pod Rot and Canker Control Method (caused by Phytophtora palmivora)
    • Frequent harvesting to avoid pathogen sporulation.
    • Harvest all the infested, dead and mummified pods and ideally destroy or bury them.
    • Prune the cacao trees and shade trees to reduce humidity.
    • Have a good drainage system so that the spores cannot spread in puddles of water.
    • Trees that have died due to tree canker should be cut down and destroyed.
    • Scraping off the bark from the infected area and put paint or soap on it.
  4. Helopeltis Control method (Helopeltis: a sap-sucking bud)
    • Typically, Helopeltis likes open canopies and sunlight penetration. Still, one should prune the trees carefully and reduce shade if it is too heavy – this is to allow better visibility on the disease and better application of control methods. (Note: if pruning is too rigorous, new chupons will grow which are a feeding ground for Helopeltis).
    • General sanitation of farm
    • Regular harvesting
  5. Stem Borer Control Method (Zeuzera)
    • Cut off infested braches at 40 cm below the lowest larvae hole. These branches should be destroyed.
    • After pruning of an infested tree, big branches, especially those with stem borer holes, should be burned.
    • The hole can be covered or plugged with mud or wood to prevent the larva to come out, so that it cannot feed and hatch, or cannot breathe.
    • Poking the larvae out with a piece of wire.
    • Squirt some soap solution in the exit hole. After a while, the larva will emerge from the hole, probably driven out by the unpleasant soap fume. Catch and kill the Stem Borer.




Fermentation and Drying

Operation carried out on farm

  • Fermentation and drying are the last operations carried out on-farm before trading the dried beans.
  • Fermentation is essential for the development of chocolate flavour (further developed during roasting).
  • After extraction, the wet beans are bulked together and gradually heat up as a result of exothermic chemical reactions in the pulp caused by the activity of microorganisms (yeasts and acetic and lactic acid bacteria). Initially, the mucilage is broken down and drains off as ‘sweatings’.
  • After 36-72 hours the beans are killed and a series of chemical changes take place inside the bean, some of which continue during drying.


  • Although chemically complex, fermentation methods are simple. Fermentation is carried out in specially constructed wooden boxes,
  • in heaps covered by banana leaves or in baskets. Much of the heat generated is retained by insulation, but this is more difficult with small quantities of beans and a minimum of about 90 kg is required when using traditional heap or box methods.
  • The process usually takes from five to seven days to complete depending on the type of cocoa being grown and local practice. The mass of beans is turned or stirred at least once for aeration.

Drying Fermented Beans

  • Fermented beans are then dried in the sun or artificially until suitably dry (6-7% moisture content dry basis) for storing and transporting.
  • Artificial drying can cause beans to be very acidic if they are dried too quickly.
  • Dried beans are hand sorted or mechanically sieved and winnowed to remove defective beans and debris.

Pod Index

  • The ‘pod index’ expresses the number of pods required to produce one kilogram of dried beans. A low pod index usually means good bean size and a saving in harvesting costs since the weight of beans per pod is high.
  • The ‘recovery’ is the proportion of dry fermented beans to wet unfermented beans expressed as a percentage.
  • It ranges from about 40% for under-ripe pods to 45% for over-ripe pods, but is also affected by variety and season


  • Manufacturing cocoa for the principal chocolate ingredients and by-products is generally an industrial process requiring expertise and specialized equipment.
  • Physical characteristics assessed by manufacturers to determine the quality of cocoa beans (in addition to flavour attributes) are of relevance to growers.
  • The average bean weight is expected to be 1.0-1.2 g, corresponding to a ‘bean count’ of 100-83 beans per 100 g. A low shell percentage is desirable as shell is removed in manufacture and has no value; 11-17% is typical.
  • The fat content of the cotyledons (nib) is important since cocoa butter has a high value; at least 53% is preferable.
  • Increasingly at the higher end of the market, there is a move to artisan production or so-called ‘bean to bar’ manufactures. These boutique chocolate producers make and market high quality chocolate.