Cacao Plant Protection – Major Stresses, Disease and Pest of Cacao

Cacao Plant Protection
Cacao tree

Benjamin Akane

Agriculturist specialized in the Ghanaian Cocoa system

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]Over the next 30 years, it is expected that cocoa-growing areas may decrease by up to 20–30% globally. This is because cacao plant is already finding it difficult to survive in hotter, drier circumstances that are mostly caused by climate change.

When seedlings are 4-6 months old, they are often placed in the ground. Young trees need protection from harsh sunlight and wind damage since they are vulnerable. Typically, protection is offered by placing seedlings close to mother trees. Additionally, this shadowing aids in limiting the tree’s height, keeping it manageable for upkeep and harvest. Other crops like bananas, plantains, coconuts, or rubber are frequently shade trees. Once the cocoa trees have developed a closed canopy, the shading can be removed, but some should be left in place to prevent pest and water stress.

While the seedlings are established, the cocoa nursery should be kept free of weeds; however, once the trees have closed their canopies, weeding is usually no longer necessary because there is no more room for growth beneath the closed canopy. Fertilizing is recommended for coco, especially when trees are cultivated in unprotected areas or poor soils. Since they preserve soil structure and do not deplete the soil’s organic content, organic fertilizers are often preferred to inorganic ones. Although several factors, like the age of the tree and the amount of shading, affect the amount of fertilizer needed, mature cocoa typically needs at least 50 to 100 kg/ha of nitrogen, 25 kg/ha of phosphorus, 75 kg/ha of potassium, and 15 kg/ha of sulfur (45-89 lb/acre of N, 22 lb/acre of P, 67 lb/acre of K and 13.4 lb/acre S).

According to my research, agroforestry is a great way to help cacao plant adapt to climate change and prevent more deforestation in newly established cocoa-producing regions. Nevertheless, it must be done carefully, as the shade tree species must meet the farmers’ requirements and the local environment.

Shade trees are recommended as a crucial adaptation technique against the harmful effects of climate change, such as Erythrina, Inga, or Gliricidia in Latin America, or Terminalia, Ofram, or Mahogany in Ghana.

Trees that provide shade protect cocoa plants from heat and water stress and foster favorable conditions for the development of cacao plant. Additional benefits include:

  • Increased soil fertility as a result of trimming and leaf-shedding residues. These recycle nutrients and add organic matter to the soil.
  • Less soil erosion since there is less surface runoff due to the leaf litter that covers the soil.
  • Increased pollination by improving the environment for pollinators.
  • Improved biological management of diseases and pests by improving the habitat for natural enemies.

Farm households also profit financially from the usage of agroforestry. They have a variety of income sources because they can receive food from fruit trees and fuelwood, and timber.

The permanent shade allows farmers to maintain their cocoa plantations in a variety of ways: thinning down the original forest canopy and keeping forest trees of interest;

  • using fruit and woody plant species;
  • preserving the development of priceless trees that developed spontaneously

Cocoa plantations are subject to various diseases and pests, which are estimated to wipe out 30-40% of global cocoa production yearly (Basso et al., 2012). Pests and diseases are one of Ghana’s biggest concerns regarding cocoa production. The major diseases affecting cocoa in Ghana include the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD), the Black pod disease (by Phytophthora palmivora), and the toxic capsid/mirid (Skate) pest (Distantiella theobroma). Since the detection of CSSVD, the only treatment has been cutting down the affected cocoa tree (Acquah, 1999). Evidence provided by Cocoa Services Division indicates that an estimated 100,000 hectares (24,7105 acres) of productive capacity was lost during the period of 1945-1990 as a result of the CSSVD attack (Amoah, 1998). Cocoa mirids, also known as capsids, is an insect or pest that feeds on cocoa stems and pods. Amoah (1998) estimated losses due to capsid attacks at 20% of world crop output annually. Despite the extensive research support towards its eradication, the mirids are still widespread, with the main control measure spraying cocoa farms with various insecticides.

Further reading:

Cacao production: Challenges and Management Strategies
Cacao Variety Selection and Propagation
Cacao Soil requirements and Planting distances
Water needs and Irrigation of Cacao
Cacao Fertilization and Nutrient Requirements
Cacao Plant Protection – Major Stresses, Disease and Pest of Cacao
Cacao tree Pruning
Yield, Harvest, Handling and Storage of Cacao
Sales, Trading, and Shipping Cocoa Beans


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( Dohmen, et al. 2018)  Temperature changes, drought, and prolonged dry season affect the flavor and overall quality of the product

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