Cocoa: Soil Management

Soil fertility management

One of the most important measures for the improvement and maintenance of soil fertility is the continuous addition of organic material, both woody and fresh plant materials such as mulches. Part of this material comes from pruning of trees and from harvest residues, for example when cocoa pods are returned to the plantation and distributed evenly over the soil surface. By ensuring consistent use of prunings and pods within the plantation, soil fertility can generally be maintained for successful cocoa production.

Many palm varieties are in a position to actively make phosphorus and other nutrients available to other plants through symbiosis with mycorrhiza-fungus. It is, therefore, recommended to integrate suitable palm tree species into the cultivation system wherever possible. Many farmers eliminate big trees by ring barking. This practise is not recommended because the forced slow die back process has a negative influence on the whole plantation. Application of animal manure and compost is very beneficial in cocoa plantations, as they provide nutrients and improve the soil structure and its capacity to hold water and nutrients.

Land preparation

Different land preparation practices are used depending on the slope, the preceding crop or previous use of the site, existing vegetation and other factors. Burning the vegetation for field preparation is not recommended. Instead the site should be cleared by slashing and chopping or shredding the hard plant materials and by distributing them homogeneously on the soil surface.