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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Miami, Florida » Subtropical Horticulture Research » Research » Research Project #431654

Research Project: Establishment of New Cacao Performance Trials in Hawaii

Location: Subtropical Horticulture Research

Project Number: 6038-21000-025-16-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2016
End Date: Aug 31, 2020

The main objective of this project is the introduction of improved cacao germplasm from different breeding programs (USDA-ARS-TARS, USDA-ARS-MARS-INIAP, and CATIE) into Hawaii. Another goal is the establishment of performance trials to evaluate agronomic properties and quality traits, as well as the assessment of Black Pod (BP; Phytophthora spp.) resistance levels on these new cacao cultivars. The project has three specific objectives: 1. Establish new cacao performance trials at different locations in Hawaii to evaluate agronomic and quality traits of elite clones from the USDA-ARS-TARS, USDA-ARS-MARS-INIAP CATIE breeding programs. 2. Identify cacao clones with high levels of Black Pod (Phytophthora spp.) resistance using phytopathological screening methodology. 3. Evaluate organoleptic properties of the chocolate produced by these new cacao clones.

Cacao acreage in Hawaii is on the rise due to a growing interest in the crop; however, farmers have been planting varieties originated from open pollinated seeds due to the absence of high yielding and superior quality varieties. A stable Hawaii-grown chocolate industry must be built upon grafted, high yielding, excellent quality clones with superior disease resistance. For this purpose, several new disease resistant cacao clones need to be evaluated under different Hawaiian growing conditions. This testing process will efficiently facilitate the selection of cacao clones with high productivity, excellent quality traits and high levels of BP resistance in cacao. Selected cacao germplasm selections developed by the breeding program at USDA-ARS-TARS, USDA-ARS-MARS and CATIE have been planted in two different locations and an additional three locations will be added in order to sample Hawaii’s different environmental growing conditions. These performance trials were established in a randomized complete block design, with six replications. Each plot has three trees per each entry, giving a total of 18 plants per entry. Planting distance between cacao plants will be 2.5 m x 2.5 m, with banana plants (Musa spp.) and high valued endemic koa trees (Acacia koa) as temporary and permanent shade, respectively. Data collected will consist of healthy and diseased pods, pod index estimates and organoleptic/quality evaluations.