Sunday, February 23, 2014

SOAP Holds Free Seminar on Cacao Production

I was able to attend this free seminar through my new online friend Emong Fabros who is in the process of building their Fabros Cacao Farm. I was able to get new cacao from Maria, Aurora courtesy of his brothers who also attended the seminar and brought the speaker Mr. Grover Rosit to their farm.

SOAP or Spread Organic Agriculture in the Philippines aims “to be your one stop hub for all your organic agriculture needs.  For everything, everyone and anything organic agriculture.  Let us link you to them....our advocacy.  I-Hub It!”. The group composed of individuals who advocate organic agriculture provides free seminar every 3rd Friday of the month on different topics on agriculture such as raw food, pro-biotic chicken, coco-sugar processing, etc. Last February 21 they  invited Mr. Grover Rosit of Rosit Cacao Farms of Baguio, Davao City for the Cacao Production Seminar.

Seminar participants came from as far as Cagayan and Aurora up North and Samar and Davao down South. The texts below are my notes of the lecture based on the power point presented and exchange among the participants. Refer to his presentation in PDF file below for the data and visuals. The following are highlights from his talk:

Sources -

Pods Selection
Choose the biggest pod with the biggest seed. Have them soaked in water and discard those that float then allow them to germinate ( put in a warm and dark place) and then transfer to seedling bags. Once they are transferred to seedling bags keep the cover for moisture. Sun and air causes dehydration. Critical time to water seedlings is between 11AM-2PM.  UF18 is known to be drought and pest resistant. The pod size and seed most often is half the size of other varieties.

Soil Mixing
Use organic manure/fertilizer. If the soil is clay/sticky add rice hulk and saw dust. If it is sandy add loom and clay soil. 

Seedling bag
Use black 6x8 with holes seedling bag. 

Seeds on its day 1 up to the 3rd week is the most critical period. It is better to have the seedlings on an elevated ground to prevent them from being flooded, especially in areas that might be prone to flooding.  
There should be a pathway/road where the seedlings could easily be transported say on a wheel barrow so as not to stress the seedling too much. There should also be a clean source of water supply. Dirty water will cause fungus. Seedlings should also be away from falling objects (example it is not advisable to create nursery underneath coconut trees). Better to arrange the seedlings in a way that it is easy to count for example 10 rows x 100 bags - for  a thousand seedlings.

Nursery Construction
Ideal place is a shaded area. Net could be used and other materials to prevent the seedlings from the acidity of rain and direct ultraviolet rays of the sun. It advisable to put matting underneath the seedlings so as to prevent the main root’s protrusion to the soil (cacao roots are sensitive). Create  knee deep canal to prevent the seedlings from being constantly soaked in water.  Cacao should be prevented from a water logged condition. If water does not dries up 2-3 days after a heavy rain then the place is considered water logged and this is not a good area for cacao to thrive.

Expose seedlings by just the mist of pesticide and fungicide and it is advisable to do it at 6PM since most insects (75%) are nocturnal. Should there be infestation do spraying at least twice a week. 

Seedlings can be grafted after 3-4 months when the stem have grown into pencil size. Make sure to have the necessary tools for grafting. Those trees that are 30 years old could be considered senile and thus become less productive. Younger trees could produce as much as 200 pods. Cut undesirable trees and introduce new scion (bud stick) from a new and good variety. It will help improve the quality of fruit. Plastic cover for the grafted scion could be removed after 18/21 days. The plastic/cellophane tied cover will help to keep the moist to encourage faster budding. It should be covered from bottom to top (where it was joined). Make sure to have at least a leaf remaining from the root stock ( the leave/s will help with the photosynthesis). The size of the root stock should be the same size of the scion that will be introduced (a longer scion can break the root stock).

Those seedlings that are grafted on the field tend to be more resistant to pest and stress (wind, etc.) than those grafted at the nursery. Water these grafted seedlings at least every 2 days. In a row of seedlings those that gets easily dehydrated are those along the sides, so they need to be watered on a more regular basis.  

The importance of grafting is to make the tree to have a high fruiting capacity. It will also prevent the trees from growing tall. A dwarfed tree would be easier to wrap and put plastic on the  cacao pods to prevent it from being infested by insects (pod borer).

Check this videos:

(running time 8mins) 

(running time 6mins 30 secs)

Transplant of seedlings
Make sure than when transferring the seedling they get acclimatized in their new environment. Do not plant seedlings immediately on the prepared holes but have the seedling stay in their new surrounding for awhile before transplanting them (a day or two maybe?).  

Field planting
It is advisable to wait for a heavy rain before planting the seedling. That way water will have seeped through and will prevent organic fertilizers from being washed away once they are in the base of the hole. The advantage of organic fertilizer is that it is a lot more cooler to the seedlings than the inorganic fertilizer. 

Cacao thrive in different soil types for as long as it is a tropical place. Cacao is very adaptable in adjusting to any soil type. An exception, if the area is elevated or above 600 meters (e.g.Baguio City) from sea level although coconut may  thrive but not fruit then the same is true with cacao. 

A three year old cacao could produce as much as 4-6 kilos of beans. On a peak season harvest of cacao could reach as high as 5 to 8 times the regular harvest. It is observed that cacao can have their highest fruiting capacity in an open space/plantation type of set-up.

Ideal distance for cacao is 3 meters by 3 meters, in a rolling area it can be 3 meters by 2.5 meters.

Fronding cover
Sack could be used to protect the seedling - have it supported by 3 sticks on the sides. When spraying the sack could be sprayed upon and preventing the seedling from getting direct sprays.

It is important to prune cacao so nutrients is not consumed by unnecessary branches. Champagne glass principle could be employed where the tree is not allowed to grow high but instead branches out on both sides (leave at least 3-4 branches at the lower part of the tree) are encouraged to grow so the middle resembles an open receptacle. The method also allows flowers to dry faster thus becoming fruits.   When the tree is about 8 months old pruning could be made already. In a long dry season, the sun stresses the tree in bearing more fruits on its next season of fruiting. 

Side grafting /budding could also be introduced to big and older trees. Make sure than when grafting insert cellophane into the wounded and joint scion to prevent water from entering and then wrap around the section with plastic tightly to have the graft heal and join together. Grafting helps rejuvenate an old tree.

When the tree reached its 7th year in order to introduce a cross pollinator have another variety like BR25 grafted in the middle, which will be allowed to grow higher than the branches of the a UF 18 variety. As to the principle of gravity and air applies (which is the main pollination process for cacao), the pollens of BR25 would then fall down to the branches  and pollinates  UF18 flowers. When fruiting those fruits of BR 25 are easily identified from the UF18 should fruits/pods segregation (which is advisable) is applied. Once the fruits of the tree becomes smaller it is a sign of introducing new pollinator (on or after the 8th year of the tree).

Organic Fertilizer 
Use organic and readily available materials. Apply fertillizer on the base of the tree at least every 3 months in the first 2 years of the tree. The organic base for cacao for transplant could lasts for 1.5 years so fertilizing of the tree could be applied on the side of the tree.

Composition of an organic fertilizer
Chicken dung/manure   50%
plant waste/saw dust    30%
carbonize rice hull          10%
agri lime                             10%
IMO 1 (bacteria)             1 liter
IMO 2  (bacteria)            1 liter
Molasses                           5 kilo 

Liquid mix diluted in a drum of water (liquid solution) and applied to 2.5 tons of solid materials above. To fully mix apply one layer on top of  another solid material, one after the other and spraying it with the liquid solution to moisten mix. Cover for 15 days then mixed again. Then used a basal for the hole and apply as fertilizer on the base of the seedling/tree.

It is needed to control fungus and insects. At least spray once every 3 months. On other occasion do spraying as a preventive maintenance of the orchard.

Wrapping pods
Will assure 100% that the fruit will not be attacked by pod borer. Also it will prevent them from exposure from chemicals when spraying is done. It will be a lot of cost savings on the part of the farmer. Pod rot is a common cacao disease.

After 160 days cacao become mango size the pods can be harvested when they have turned yellowish. In a year there could be 3 fruiting harvest season.

Opportunities of Cacao Farming 
(please double check the items with that of the powerpoint presentation in PDF)
1 kg = 800 - 1000 seeds = P150.00
1 kg = 16 pods 
Scions sells at P3.00-4.00 ( since you prune you might as well sell)
Tablea - 1 kg = P300-400 pesos (process involved roasting and molding)

Financial Analysis for a 1 hectare of plantation 
(please double check the items with that of the powerpoint presentation in PDF)
3m x 3m of 1 has = 1,000 seedlings
= 60-100 pods/tree/year
=3-4 kilos of dried beans
= 4 k - 4 tons = 120/kilo = P 480,000/year/has
= less 15-20% overhead
= after 4-5 years earning is P 384,000/year

- on the succeeding year the plantation/farm will be self-sustaining
- P 25,000.00 maintenance cost
- P 80,000.00/has
- on the 7th year investment would have been gained back

Budget for 1 hectare (Davao rate) 
(please double check the items with that of the powerpoint presentation in PDF) 
Seedling = 1,200 x P25.00
Hauling - P 1.00/seed (every 2 km pick-up)
Plowing - tractor   P 5,000.00
                - carabao P 3,000.00
Total cost  = P 55,000 - 60,000/ has

As innovation for small farms, use sack that can be easily turned upside down so that the liquid gets equally distributed once the topmost part gets dried. US requires 8-10 days of fermentation but for European requires 10-12 days. The longer the cacao gets fermented the better and stronger aroma. But for tableya need not fermented for long at least 4-5 days, the longer it is fermented it turns sour when made into drink.

Related links:

A. Classics and Historical Readings about Cacao and Chocolate

B. Cacao Farming

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