The role of natural pollinators in cocoa yield (Call for Concept Notes 2021 )

The Joint Cocoa Research fund has launched a call for concepts notes on the role of natural pollinators in cocoa yields.

The relative roles of light, water, and nutrients on cocoa productivity are recognized as critical. Less understood is the role of pollination on cocoa productivity. The fertilization of cocoa flowers is mostly carried out by insects (Ceratopogonidae), but pollination receives no farmer management inputs or interventions, and simply happens as a “natural” process in the background. The positive short-term effects on cocoa productivity through manual pollination have been reported, but what is not known is the long-term effect on the cocoa tree (physiology, productivity, nutrient needs, etc.) of continuous, multi-season hand pollination. There is a need to better understand the role of pollination in cocoa productivity, not least because Ghana Cocoa Board have recently embarked on a hand pollination programme for farmers. Additionally, there may be simple farmer practices which optimise cocoa flower pollination and could give improved yields (if this did not have any negative effects on trees).

A cocoa pollination project would answer the following questions:

  • Does the level of cocoa flower pollination contribute to tree productivity, ie. in conditions of optimal light, water and nutrients, what is the effect on yield of increasing the rate of pollination?
  • What is the effect on tree health, yield and physiology of hand pollinating flowers repeatedly over multiple seasons? Is it possible to “over-pollinate”?
  • Are high input conditions necessary to achieve high yields from increased pollination? o What practices can farmers carry out to stimulate natural pollinator activity and does this make economic sense?
  • Does the extent of shade in cocoa cropping systems (i.e. agroforestry vs full sun cocoa) affect the natural pollinator populations and if so what are practical and economical recommendations for optimising yield and natural pollination within a cocoa landscape?

Details of the call are available here.

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