How to Grow Cacao Tree

Cacao seeds are borne in pods that hang from the branches of the cacao tree. When the red pods become deep red or hen yellow-orange and green pods become yellow, they are ready for harvest. When processed, the seeds or beans are used as flavoring materials and as chocolate beverage. These are also used in the manufacture of cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. Local supply of cacao is inadequate for our industrial needs so most local processors of cacao and chocolate products have to import cacao beans and cacao grindings.

The common varieties of cacao in the Philippines are the following:

A. Criollo — this comes in three (3) types: Venezuela, Nicaragua and Trinidad.

  • It is considered best for its flavor and aroma, but is susceptible to pests and diseases, so it is avoided.
  • The pod is elongated, thin-husked and pointed, usually with constriction near the base.
  • The ridges of the pods are pronounced and sharper than those of Forastero.
  • The pods come in two (2) colors: white when ripe is generally yellow, while those of the red criollo change from purple to yellowish orange.
  • The Seeds are pale yellowish white or pinkish yellow.

B. Forastero — Amazonian and Amelonado are among the Forastero.This is more resistant to insect pests and diseases, and other adverse conditions than Criollo. Oftentimes, this is more

  • The pod has smooth appearance, less rounded in tip and square base.
  • It is larger in size than the Criollo.
  • The color is purple or dark, becoming yellowish between the ridges as it matures.
  • The seeds are large, somewhat rounded, and the color is purple or with purplish tinges.

C. Trinitario — is a cross between Criollo and Forastero with features similar to Criollo (this exhibits the characteristics of a hybrid and is perhaps the richest source of materials for the improvement of cacao for breeding).

  • Famous for its well-balanced conditions of hardiness and quality products.
  • The seeds are variable in character.

D. Upper Amazonian Hybrid (Malaysian or Sabah Hybrid). Early bearing, high yielding and more vigorous.

Soil Requirements

The better the soil structure, the deeper the root penetration and therefore the greater the volume of soil is exploited by the roots for moisture and nutrient uptake. Clay loam soil of good structure is best for cacao since the aggregate of sand, silt and clay provides large pore spaces for aeration and drainage, and at the same time retain moisture.

Organic matter in the surface layer is important for cacao growth. To preserve the organic layer, the soil must be well shaded to slow down the rate of natural breakdown of waste leaves. Cacao is not good for water-logged areas or places with prolonged drought. Soil is favorable if ph is 6.0-7.1 A ph value 4 or less is not suitable for cacao. Where bananas and corn grow luxuriously, it is a sign that cacao will grown successfully in that place.

Climatic Requirements – Cacao is strictly a tropical plant; it grows mostly within 10° of the Equator (lat 20°N and 20°S), within temperature of 20°C (between 22°C-32°C) Cold limit is 21°C, not lower than 15°C at coldest month and an absolute minimum of 10°C. For hot limits, temperature ranges from 38°-40°C growth is abnormal at a constant temperature above 31°C, although good growth can be had up to 35°C, with a fluctuating temperature between day and night.

Elevation – Cacao thrives up to 1,000 meters above sea level as long as temperature is not lower than 21°C. Ideal elevation is 600 m above sea level.

Rainfall – if the monthly rainfall drops below 10 cm per month, cacao will suffer water stress, leaves begins to fall. Areas under Type IV climate are suited for cacao production provided these are not within the typhoon belt areas.

Relative Humidity – cacao needs humid temperature; a relative humidity of about 80% as in a tropical forest or that provided by an artificial shade. Thus, cacao needs shade for growing.

Propagation and Care – The most common way of propagating cacao is by seeds. Other ways are by cutting, budding or marcotting. Hybrid seeds are recommended.

Seed Selection – If hybrid seeds are not available, seeds for planting must be well selected, that is, they must come from big pods obtained from trees that are highly productive, bearing regularly and free from pests and diseases. Size of pod is determined by using a pod index, i.e. number of pods to make a kilo of dried beans. If 25 pods yield one kilo dried beans, this is considered good-sized pods. Fresh seeds must be large and weigh at least 2.5 grams including mucilage.

Criolle seeds or hybrids with high criolle character must be avoided because of its susceptibility to pests and diseases.This can be checked through the seed color after the seed coat is removed. Non-Criolle variety is violet.Violet cacao seeds are generally that of Trinitario or Forastero.

Seed Planting – Cacao seeds do not last long, so they must be planted soon. They germinate as soon as the fruits ripen. Some germinate even while in pods. Seeds are viable normally until up to six (6) days after harvest; viability may be extended up to 8-10 weeks if the pods are stored at 21°C-24°C.

  1. To have uniform germination, the mucilage embedded on the seed coat, which contains germination inhibitor, must be removed. This is done by putting the seeds in a bamboo basket for a day during which time the mucilage softens.
  2. Rub the seed with dry sand or sawdust, then wash.
  3. After removing the mucilage, spread the seeds in wet gunny sacks under shade and keep moist.
  4. When the radicle breaks through the seedcoat, the seeds are ready for planting in polyethylene bags (earlier arranged in beds of about 1 meter wide and any convenient length). A one-meter wide space between beds should be provided to facilitate watering, weeding, fertilization, pest and disease control, etc.
  5. Bags must be perforated at the bottom for drainage. The longer the time the seedlings will be kept in the nursery, the bigger the bags must be.
    • For 3-4 months = size 6″x8″ bags
    • 4-6 months = size 8″x12″ bags

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