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.
Though three varietal types viz., Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario are recognized, only
Forastero types are known to perform well under Indian conditions. 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.
Table 14. Improved varieties and salient features
Varieties/hybrids Salient features
CCRP-1 Selection, tolerant to VSD
CCRP-2 Selection, tolerant to VSD
CCRP-3 Selection, tolerant to VSD
CCRP-4 Selection, tolerant to VSD
CCRP-5 Selection, tolerant to VSD
CCRP-6 Selection, tolerant to VSD
CCRP-7 Selection, tolerant to VSD
CCRP-8 Hybrid, tolerant to VSD
CCRP-9 Hybrid, tolerant to VSD
CCRP-10 Hybrid, tolerant to VSD
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.
Cocoa can be propagated by seed and vegetative means.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 50cm x 50cm x 50cm 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. Remove the bag 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.
Upto 4-5 years, growing green manure crops like Mimosa invisa, Calapagonium and
Pueraria in open patches and along coconut basins can provide about 5-6 tonnes of green
leaf for cocoa. These can be cut at regular intervals and incorporated in the basins. With
increasing age, the canopy of cocoa closes, and the quantum of light falling on to the ground
becomes so small that raising these cover crops has to be restricted to the coconut basins
and some scattered patches reducing the green leaf yield to 2-3 tonnes.
Border planting of Glyricidia for the supply of green leaf manure.
Regular pruning of trees and depositing the prunings in the basins.
In situ composting of pod husk (3600 kg/ha) and incorporation into the basin
@ 7.2 kg/plant is beneficial.
Apply farm yard manure @ 40 kg/plant or fresh vermicompost 20 kg per plant in four
equal split doses in May, September, December and February under irrigated condition or in
two equal splits in April - May and September - October under rainfed condition.
Apply wood ash @1.0 kg /plant.
Apply biofertilizer PGPR mix I as enriched organic maure. Inoculate with AMF in the
nursery and field at the time of planting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Among the pests infesting cocoa, the major ones are the red borer, tea mosquito bug,
mealy bug, grey weevil, cock chaffer beetle. These pests are not of very disastrous and
these can be effectively controlled by mechanical means.
Rats and squirrels cause considerable damage to ripening pods. Continuous trapping
using attractants will be effective to check the squirrel and rat population in the field. As
these cause damage to ripe fruits only, damage can be reduced by harvesting regularly and
not allowing the ripe pods to remain on the trees for long periods. Adopt rat control measures
as in coconut.
Among the diseases affecting mature plants, black pod caused by Phytophthoa
palmivora and Vascular Streak Dieback caused by Oncobasidium theobromae are
The measures recommended to control black pod disease are
1. Periodic removal and destruction of infected pods.
2. Cultural practices like proper pruning and regulating the overhead shade to reduce
humidity and to improve aeration.
3. Spraying Bordeaux mixture one per cent at 15 days intervals starting from the onset
of monsoon along with periodic removal of infected pods.
4. Extracts of Allium sativum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Lawsonia inermis and
Adenocalymma allicea is effective in inhibiting lesion development on detached cocoa
5. Periodical spraying and drenching of 2% Pseudomonas fluorescensP1 is very effective
in checking the disease.
6. Quarantine measures are important in Vascular Streak Dieback since the pathogen is
systemic in nature.
Cocoa nurseries should not be maintained near diseased trees because young plants
are easily affected by the disease. Regular pruning of infected branches is recommended
to maintain a very low level of infection. During pruning, the branches should be split open
to detect the extent of streaking in the wood. The branches are then to be cut 30 cm below
the last detectable streak. Eradicative pruning will be more effective if carried out at least
one month prior to the wet season. Removal of prunings from the cocoa field is not necessary
because the fungus cannot survive or produce spores in the dead wood.
Genetic resistance offers good prospects of controlling Vascular Streak Dieback. From
Kerala Agricultural University, 10 disease resistant clones have been released, the budded
plants of which offer a considerable degree of resistance. The hybrid seedlings produced
from the clonal gardens of the University are also tolerant to this disease.
It takes about 170 days for a cocoa pod to develop from formation to maturity. During
the period from 70-140 days after pollination, the size of pods and their fat and sugar content
increase rapidly. Ripening takes about 25 days, during which, the pods change colour
depending on the variety. Pods remain suitable for harvesting for fairly long time after they
have ripened. Hence, it is possible to have harvest of sufficient number of pods at a time by
either delaying the harvest of early-ripened pods or harvest of pods, which are fully ripened.
Harvesting should be done at regular intervals rather than daily, once in 7-10 days. Avoid
over-ripening of pods. The discards at the harvest can be left in the garden either in the open
during summer or in pits at different sites in the rainy season, or they can be incorporated in
the compost. Pod husks from the fermentary can also be used similarly as a good source of
Pods are removed by cutting with a sickle-sharp knife, without damaging the cushion
from which it is developed. After 2-3 days, they are split by banging them against some hard
objects. Opening the pods with a knife damages the beans. During the period between
harvesting and splitting, pre-fermentation activity inside the pod is hastened, which improves
later fermentation. Beans from the split pods are scraped out with fingers. Portions of
placenta, and broken, germinated, caked, parthenocarpic and undeveloped beans are removed.
On an average, 10-12 pods give 1 kg of wet beans and 3 kg of wet beans (from 30-36 pods)
give 1 kg of fermented and dried beans.
During fermentation, the pulp or mucilage covering the fresh beans is removed and
characteristic chocolate flavour is imparted to the final produce. The process is simple but
must be carried out properly in order to get beans of good quality. Heat is produced by
keeping the fresh beans compactly and this heat must be conserved so that chemical changes
inside the bean can be completed.
The four methods of fermentation usually employed involve the use of baskets, heaps,
boxes and trays for filling up the wet beans.
The best method suitable for small quantities of beans is the tray fermentation. Wooden
trays, 10 cm deep with slatted / split cane bottoms are divided into a number of sections by
means of wooden partitions that fit into appropriate grooves at required distances. The
capacity of the tray can be adjusted depending upon the availability of beans by keeping the
wooden plank in the appropriate grooves. A convenient tray can be 25 cm wide and 60 cm
long. Wet beans are filled in the tray and levelled. About 10 kg of wet beans may be required
to load one tray fully.
A single tray of beans will not ferment properly and at least four or five trays are
needed for successful fermentation. The trays are stacked one over the other in such a
manner that the cocoa filled portions are in a single row one above the other. The top tray is
covered with plantain leaves. After 24 hours, a close fitting sack is put to cover the stack to
keep the beans warm. Mixing or stirring of beans is not necessary and fermentation gets
completed in 4 to 5 days, whereas 6 to 7 days are required for other methods of fermentation.
In this method, bean lots ranging from 2-6 kg can be fermented successfully. Mini
baskets may be made of bamboo matting, closely woven and should have a diameter of 20
cm and height of 15 cm for a capacity of 2 kg. For slightly larger lots, proportionately deeper
baskets may be used (e.g., for 6 kg, the depth may be about 40 cm). The baskets are lined
with one or two layers of torn banana leaves to facilitate drainage of sweatings. Wet beans
are then filled, compacted and covered with banana leaves. The baskets are placed on a
raised platform to allow the flow of drippings. After 24 hours, it is covered with gunny-sack
and applied weights (bricks). The beans are to be taken out and stirred well 48 hours and 96
hours after the initial setting. Fermentation will be completed in six days and the beans can
be taken for drying on the seventh day.
A number of factors influence the duration of fermentation. Weather changes and
season are important through their influence on temperature and atmospheric moisture.
Ripening also affects fermentation. Beans from unripe pods cannot be fermented. Beans of
Criollo ferment more quickly than those of Forastero. During the early stages of fermentation,
heat is produced by the action of anaerobic microorganisms. The beans are killed by the
combined effect of heat and acetic acid and the cocoa aroma and flavour potential are
Judging the end point of fermentation
Well-fermented beans will be plumpy and filled with a reddish brown exudate. The
testa becomes loosened from the cotyledons. When cut open, the cotyledons will have a
bleached appearance in the centre with a brownish ring in the periphery. When above 50%
of beans in a lot show the above signs, it can be considered as properly fermented.
On completion of fermentation, beans are dried either in the sun or by artificial means.
Sun drying can be done in thin layers 2-3 cm deep and stirring from time to time. Under
normal sunny weather, drying can be completed in four to five days. While drying in mechanical
driers, care must be taken to avoid exposure of the beans to smoke, fumes etc. The most
common method of determining bean dryness is to take a sample and compress this in the
palm of the hand and listen for the characteristic sound, which is associated with correctly
dried cocoa. The more scientific method is to use a moisture meter.
The dried beans with moisture content of 6-8% may be packed in polythene bags or
polythene lined gunny bags. Some special conditions have to be provided in storage in order
to maintain the quality of the cured beans. Properly dried beans can be kept in 200-300
gauge polythene covers if only small quantities are involved or in polythene lined gunny bags
in the case of larger stocks. Beans should be cleaned of flat, broken and other defective
beans before storing. The store should be sufficiently ventilated and the bags should be kept
on a wooden platform with air space of about 15-20 cm below the wooden planks set over
the floor. The humidity should not exceed 80% so as to prevent mould development and pest
incidence in the beans. As cocoa beans can absorb and retain permanently any odour from
its surroundings, other food-stuffs should not be kept with cocoa. So also, smoke or kerosene
fumes should be prevented from entry.
NUTMEG (Myristica fragrans)
Nutmeg requires a hot, humid climate without pronounced dry season. The soil should
be rich in organic matter and well drained. The tree prefers partial shade. Sheltered valleys
are the best suited. It can be grown up to about 900 m above MSL.
Select locally available, high yielding and high quality cultivars. Viswashree is an
improved variety from IISR.
Seeds and sowing
Seeds from fully ripened tree-burst fruits are collected directly from the tree for raising
seedlings. The fleshy rind and the mace are removed before sowing. Care should be taken
to avoid drying of seeds, as dried seeds fail to germinate. Hence immediate sowing of seeds
is recommended. Otherwise seeds should be kept in baskets filled with moistened sand till
sowing. Seeds of fully mature fruits will be of black colour.
Seed beds of 100 120 cm width, 15 cm height and of convenient length may be
prepared in cool and shady places. A mixture of garden soil and sand in the ratio 3:1 may be
used for preparing nursery beds. Over this, sand is spread to a thickness of 2 -3 cm and the
seeds placed 2 cm below the surface at a spacing of about 12 cm on either side. Seeds
germinate within 50 80 days after sowing. Young seedlings cannot withstand direct sunlight
or heavy moisture. When the plumule produces two elongated opposite leaves, the seedlings
are to be transferred from beds to poly bags of size 13cm x 18 cm. Field planting is done six
months after germination. Seedlings attain a height of around 23 cm at this stage.
Nutmeg requires shade for optimum growth. Hence suitable banana varieties can be
planted on both sides at a distance of 1m from the pit. This will provide shade in the early
stages. Generally nutmeg is cultivated as an intercrop in coconut gardens. Hence the required
shade for the growth of plants will be provided by the main crop like coconut. Pits of 90cm
x 90cm x 90 cm are dug at a spacing of 8m x 8m with the onset of South West monsoon.
The pits are filled with top soil and compost or well decomposed cattle manure and seedlings
Small rootlets spread very near to top soil. Hence digging should be avoided in the root
zone. Therefore hand weeding is generally recommended. Certain rootlets may come
above surface soil. Earthing up should be done to protect such rootlets. Dried branches are
to be removed. Small branches, which grow erect from the main branches, should also be
removed as they do not set fruits.
Nutmeg requires heavy manuring. Cow dung or compost is found to be good. Apply
10 kg cattle manure or compost per seedling during the first year and increase the quantity
of organic manure to 50 kg gradually till the tree attains an age of 15 years. This can be
applied in two or three split doses. Application of poultry manure, vermi compost, neem
cake and bone meal is also beneficial to enhance the growth and yield (Table 19).
Table 19. Additional requirement of organic manures
Organic manures Quantity
1st Year 2nd Year
Bone meal 100g/plant 100g/plant
Neem cake 100g/plant 100g/plant
Poultry manure 2kg/plant 4kg/plant
Vermi compost 2kg/plant 4kg/plant
Gradually increase the dose of the manure as the plant grows. Application of biofertilizers
such as Azospirillum and phosphobacteria / PGPR mix I @10 to 25g/plant in the root zone
during the first year and 25 to 50g/plant during subsequent years is also advantageous.
Seedling root dip is also beneficial to the plants. Inoculate with AMF in the nursery and field
at the time of planting.
Peak period of harvest is from December to May. When fruits are fully ripe, the nuts
split open. These are either plucked from the tree or allowed to drop. The two major
products are nutmeg and mace. Dried nutmeg and mace are directly used as spice and also
for the preparation of their derivatives.
The nuts meant for sowing are kept in moist places and others are dried in the sun for
six to eight days till they rattle in their shell. They are stored in warm dry places prior to
The hard scale Saissetia nigra occurs on the pencil thick branches and desaps the
tissues. The infested shoots invariably develop sooty mould cover.
Spray tobacco decoction/neem- garlic suspension (2%).
Leaf spot and shot hole (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides)
Syptoms: Sunken spots surrounded by a yellow halo are the initial symptoms.
Subsequently the central portion of the necrotic region drops off resulting in shot hole
symptoms. Die back symptoms are also observed in some of the mature branches. On
young seedlings drying of the leaves and subsequent defoliation are seen.
Control: The disease can be controlled by spraying 1% Bordeaux mixture 2-3 times
during rainy season.
Fruit rot (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides)
Symptoms: Water soaked lesions are seen on the fruits, the tissues of which become
discoloured and disintegrated. Premature splitting of the pericarp and rotting of mace and
seed are the main symptoms of this disease. The internal tissues are found rotten. The
fallen fruits become enveloped with the growth of the organism.
The above diseases can be controlled by spraying Pseudomonas fluorescens @ 20 g/
litre / PGPR mix II/ spraying 1% bordeux mixture.