Cocoa: Planting Systems

In Malaysia numerous systems of planting cocoa have been tried. Growing cocoa under rubber, oil palm and coconuts have all been reported by various authors (Blencowe, 1967; McCulloch, 1967 and Ramadasan et. al. 1978). At conventional planting distances, rubber and oil palm are too competitive particularly for light to produce good cocoa yields.

However, satisfactory yields of both cocoa and oil palm can be achieved by intercropping cocoa with oil palm planted in wide avenues. (Lee & Hanafi, 1978)

The cocoa-coconut intercropping system has also changed. The days of high coconut stand intercropped with cocoa are past. Present emphasis is to plant more cocoa and use coconut as a minimum economic top shade. Some have gone to the extreme of planting monoculture cocoa. (Wills, 1980 and Basket et al., 1982).

Numerous other cocoa-coconut planting systems and patterns are also commonly practiced. The most common ones are MAWA planted regularly at 9m x 12m to 12m x 12m (69 to 92 palms/ha) as permanent top shade intercropped with cocoa at 3m x 3m (1019 to 1042 bushes/ha). Temporary shade such as Gliricidia maculata and Gajanus Cajun are planted together with MAWA about a year ahead of cocoa to provide initial shade. The temporary shade trees are gradually removed completely in stages as the MAWA matures.

More recently, planting of MAWA or oil palm in twin rows in wide avenues intercropped with cocoa has also been tried on experimental scales. The main advantage of this system is that field mechanization can be carried out with ease. Machinery and field workers can move along the wide paths in between the MAWA/oil palm twin rows without undue impediment.

The planting patterns are illustrated in figures 1 and table 3.

The main reason for intercropping cocoa with coconuts or oil palm is that such systems utilize the land more efficiently than the monocrop systems. Since mature cocoa requires some protective shade, it is logical that planting shade trees producing economic crops would improve the viability of a planting. However, they should not be too competitive, particularly for light. In this regard, coconut is superior to oil palm. From an agronomic point of view, an evenly spaced shade (eg. coconut at 12 m x 12 m) is better than shade trees planted in avenues (eg. intercropping systems listed in table 3). However, each system has its advantages and disadvantages and these must be tailored to suit one’s objectives.

Fig : 1 : MAWA/oil palm in twin rows in wide avenues intercropped with cocoa

6.5 m – 7.36 m
15 m – 22 m
6.50 m – 7.36 m
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MAWA at 7.5 m.e.t.
or oil palm at 8.5 m.e.t.
in twin rows
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Cocoa at 3m x 3m
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MAWA at 7.5 m.e.t.
or oil palm at 8.5 m.e.t.
in twin rows
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Table 3 : Coconut/Oil Palm in twin rows in wide avenues intercropped with cocoa

Planting pattern

Cocoa

Coconut/oil palm

Cocoa + Coconut as % of monocrop

Relative

Weightage (%)

Planting distance (m)

No. of Rows

Interrow Width (m)

Bush/ha

Stand as % of monocrop 1

Planting Distance (m)

Palm/ha

Stand as % of monocrop 2

Cocoa

Coconut/ oil palm

1

3.0×3.0

4-6

15-21

620-727

56-65

Coconut at 7.5 m.e.t.

97-124

61-78

126-134

45-52

48-58

2

3.0×3.0

4-6

16-22

570-680

51-61

Oil Palm at 8.5 m.e.t.

80-100

58-72

119-123

41-51

49-59

Note: 1. Cocoa monocrop at 3.0 m x 3.0 m staggered – 1,111 bushes/ha
2. Coconut monocrop at 8.5 m.e.t. – 159 palms/ha
Oil Palm monocrop at 9.1 m.e.t. – 139 palms/ha

Reference 
Ooi L.H. and Chew P.S. 1985. Some important agronomic and agricultural practices in cocoa estates. TDMB Plantation Management Seminar, Kuala Trengganu

Note: The full list of references quoted in this article is available from the above paper.

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