PLANTING AND FARM ESTABLISHMENT

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.

Planting

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.

Weeding

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

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