Agronomy and Cultural Practices

Cocoa is naturally an understorey plant which grows under the shade of taller rainforest trees. These shade trees form an important part of a sustainable growing system. As well as their role in establishing the microclimate needed to maintain cocoa's productivity in the long term, they may contribute to soil fertility, reduce pest and disease losses and provide the farmer with an additional source of income. However, the same trees may also compete with cocoa for light, water and nutrients, and it is essential therefore to find shade trees and growing systems that offer the right balance.

The UK industry has supported research which investigates the potential of native West African forest trees, and other economic trees for their suitability in a mixed cropping or agroforestry system.

Research has been undertaken to understand how practices such as mulching might help improve establishment of young plants.

"Research to help optimise factors such as choice of shade tree, mulching and planting density, to improve establishment, yield and the economics of small cocoa farms"