Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

African researchers and growers are banking on sustainable cocoa

22.12.2006
Global demand for cocoa is rising steadily. Ghana and Ivory Coast alone account for almost 60% of world output*. However, maintaining African production levels may prove difficult in future, since cocoa is currently grown extensively. As a result, yields fall as the plantations age, for want of fertilizers and as a result of growing parasite pressure.

Once the soils in a given area are degraded, farmers move on to the last remaining forest areas. In the end, for want of accessible forest resources, cocoa production in West and Central Africa is likely to fall. The problem is that with some 4.5 million hectares of cocoa, the sector provides a living for huge numbers of rural inhabitants in Africa, for instance six million people in Ghana.

It is also one of the main sources of foreign currency: in Ivory Coast, cocoa accounts for some 30% of the country's total exports. Unless a viable agronomic alternative can rapidly be transferred to smallholders in order to sedentarize cocoa production, the economic and social situation in these cocoa-growing zones may eventually become critical.

In response to this agronomic and socioeconomic challenge, CIRAD researchers and their partners opted to set up an African research network. The network falls under the aegis of the Cocoa Producers Alliance (COPAL) and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), and comprises 35 researchers from 32 research and development organizations in the leading five cocoa-producing countries in Africa: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria and Cameroon. The structure, which was initiated under a project on competitive and sustainable cocoa in Africa (SCCS) enabled the launch of nine research operations between 2002 and 2006, with the active involvement of numerous producers in the five countries.

The researchers, technicians and growers involved have primarily worked along four lines: improved cropping systems, participative breeding of cultivars either tolerant of or resistant to the diseases that affect cocoa, protection against pests and diseases, and soil fertilization.

Improved methods that cocoa producers can easily take on board

As regards improved cocoa cropping, researchers have drawn up a typology of the different cropping systems and characterized in detail the agroeconomic conditions for growing cocoa and the environmental conditions in the areas concerned. In particular, the idea was to adapt crop management sequences to the socioeconomic conditions in which growers work. The project subsequently enabled the development of methods for rehabilitating unproductive cocoa plantings that were both more effective than the existing methods and easy for producers to adopt: pruning and budding using improved material, redensification, and phytosanitary protection. The results have also highlighted the merits of growing cocoa under shade - in particular, it conserves the biodiversity and climatic plasticity of the cropping system - and of intercropping it with other crops (fruit, market garden or cash crops) to diversify the growers' sources of income.

Resisting devastating diseases is crucial in ensuring sustainable cocoa growing in Africa. Two diseases are of particular concern: black pod rot and cocoa swollen shoot virus (CSSV). To tackle the problem, researchers have opted to work on potentially resistant cultivars. In Togo, they have bred a certain number of hybrids whose tolerance of, if not resistance to, these diseases has yet to be confirmed under field conditions.

Diseases are not the only obstacle. Cocoa trees are also subject to attacks from numerous sucking insects. One, known as a mirid or capsid, attacks the young branches, which then become necrotic, and the pods. There are control methods, but they are too expensive for growers. One solution is to cut the cost of treatment. To this end, the trees have to be treated at just the right stage in the insect's development. This makes treatment more effective and reduces the environmental impact. An early warning system is currently being tested in Cameroon.

The last task is the maintenance and rational restitution of soil fertility. Cocoa growing calls for large quantities of soil minerals, but without fertilizer applications, the soils are exhausted within twenty years or so. In an attempt to manage soil fertility more efficiently, researchers have tested a decision support tool for rational fertilization that can rapidly devise formulas that are suitable from both an economic and an ecological point of view.

* 2005 figures

Helen Burford | alfa
Further information:
http://www.cirad.fr/en/actualite/communique.php?id=589

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Researchers discover a new link to fight billion-dollar threat to soybean production
14.02.2017 | University of Missouri-Columbia

nachricht Important to maintain a diversity of habitats in the sea
14.02.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'

23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field

23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood

23.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>