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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Sustainable Perennial Crops Laboratory » Research » Research Project #426238

Research Project: Sustainable Production Systems for Cacao

Location: Sustainable Perennial Crops Laboratory

2014 Annual Report

The overall goal of this project is to develop sustainable management systems to improve the productivity and sustainability of cacao (Theobroma cacao L) cultivation. To accomplish this goal the following objectives will be addressed Objective 1: Identify cacao genotypes with superior ability for establishment under conditions of environmental stress. [NP 301, C1, PS 1A] Sub-objective 1A: Evaluate and identify cacao genotypes with superior tolerance to soil acidity. Sub-objective 1B: Determine key physiological and growth responses of selected cacao genotypes under different levels of irradiance (shade). Sub-objective 1C: Evaluate and identify selected cacao genotypes with superior drought tolerance. Objective 2: Characterize and manage soil nutritional components essential for optimal cacao yields. [NP 305, C1, PS 1C] Sub-objective 2A: Determine the residual effects of cover crops with and without NPK fertilizers on production potentials and bean quality. Sub-objective 2B: Determine the effectiveness of controlled release fertilizer formulations on improving growth, production, and cocoa bean quality of selected cacao genotypes grown in specific soil types. Sub-objective 2C: Determine optimum concentrations and nutrient use efficiencies of macro and micro-nutrients in selected cacao genotypes. Objective 3: Develop environmentally sustainable cacao management systems that improve soil quality and yield. [NP 305, C1, PS1C] Sub-objective 3A: Integrate improved canopy management, phytosanitation, and other management practices into cacao field experiments to evaluate their combined effect on yield. Sub-objective 3B: Develop an improved cacao rejuvenation system that integrates improved management practices and evaluates its effect on cacao yield.

The major emphasis of this project is to identify cacao genotypes tolerant to abiotic stresses (drought, infertile acidic soils, and high/low irradiance) and develop sustainable management systems to improve their productivity and bean quality. The residual effects of cover crop cultivation and improved management systems (agroforestry planting, high density planting, fertilization, sanitary and phyto-sanitary practices) on the changes of soil quality parameters (physical, chemical, biological) and bean yield and quality will also be determined. Nutrient use efficiency of macro-micronutrients of elite cacao genotypes and cover crops at various abiotic stresses and management systems will be evaluated. Enhanced nutrient use efficiency and sustainable high productivity of cacao will be achieved through improved management practices. To achieve these objectives we have established collaborative research programs under specific cooperative agreements with government and non-government organizations (NGO) and national and international agricultural universities in cacao growing regions of Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador, and the University of Florida at Fort Pierce as well as the USDA ARS in Puerto Rico to establish controlled studies in greenhouses and large scale field trials. University of Reading (UR), UK will be collaborating on abiotic stress assessment. Cacao genotypes with superior ability for establishment under abiotic stresses will be identified and incorporated in cacao improvement programs. Improved management systems will be developed, based on the results of this research, to enhance cacao yield potentials and bean quality and further improve soil fertility and halt the further soil degradation.

Progress Report
1245-21000-278-00D is a new project and initiated on 02/10/2014. Progress report of terminating project 1245-21000-266-00D from 04/21/2011 to 02/09/2014 has been reported on its FY 2014 report.