Cacao . Small tropical plant that is grown for its almond- shaped seeds , which are used to make chocolate . Also called cocoa tree or cocoa tree . It belongs to the malvaceae family . The species is native to the tropical forest of the Amazon basin , and two distribution areas are recognized in the pre-Columbian era. It was first cultivated in Central America and north of South America , and the varieties found there are known as Creoles.


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  • 1 General characteristics
  • 2 Taxonomy
    • 1 Scientific name
      • 1.1 Authors
    • 2 Synonymy
    • 3 Common name
  • 3 Distribution
    • 1 In Cuba
  • 4 Morphology
  • 5 edaphoclimatic requirements
    • 1 Requirements on soil
  • 6 Commercial varieties
  • 7 Cultural practices
    • 1 Soil preparation
    • 2 Weed control
      • 2.1 Importance
      • 2.2 Main problems
      • 2.3 Effects of weeds
      • 2.4 Main weeds in cacao groves
      • 2.5 Control methods
        • 2.5.1 Biological control
        • 2.5.2 Manual control
      • 3 Pruning
      • 4 Propagation
        • 4.1 Vegetative propagation
        • 4.2 Propagation by seed
      • 5 Collection
    • 8 Nutritional value
    • 9 Products
      • 1 Chocolate components
        • 1.1 Alleged disadvantages
      • 2 Chocolate cravings
      • 3 Benefits
    • 10 plantation frames
    • 11 Irrigation
    • 12 Fertilization
    • 13 Plagues
      • 1 Insects
      • 2 Mites
    • 14 Diseases
    • 15 Fruit Treatments
    • 16 References
    • 17 Sources

General characteristics

It belongs to the malvaceae family . The species is native to the tropical forest of the Amazon basin , and two distribution areas are recognized in the pre-Columbian era. It was first cultivated in Central America and north of South America , and the varieties found there are known as Creoles. The second region comprises the Amazon and the Orinoco basin , where the cocoa colonies are known as the Amazon Forastero. The second is the type that is most cultivated, especially in Brazil , Ivory Coast , Ghana and Nigeria .

The product is generally exported in the form of dry seed. Traders purchase the output, which is exported by registered exporters or government trade councils. Sales are made through contracts or futures markets, mainly in New York and London . In the market, fine and heavy cocoas are differentiated. The fine has a flavor and other characteristics that are preferred, so it receives a better price.


Scientific name

  • Theobroma cacao L.

Theobroma cacao

[1] [2] [3] [4]


  • Linnaeus, Carl von
  • Published in: Species Plantarum 2: 782. 1753. (1 May 1753 ) [5]


  • Cocoa minus Gaertn.
  • Cocoa sativa Aubl.
  • Cocoa theobroma Tussac
  • Theobroma cacao f. leiocarpum (Bernoulli) Ducke
  • Theobroma cacao subsp. cocoa
  • Theobroma cacao subsp. sativum (Aubl.) León
  • Theobroma cacao subsp. sphaerocarpum (A. Chev.) Cuatrec.
  • Theobroma cacao var. typicum Cif.
  • Theobroma caribaeum Sweet
  • Theobroma integerrimum Stokes
  • Theobroma kalagua From Wild.
  • Theobroma leiocarpum Bernoulli
  • Theobroma pentagonum Bernoulli
  • Theobroma saltzmannianum Bernoulli
  • Theobroma sapidum Pittier


  • Theobroma sativum (Aubl.) Lign. & Le Bey
  • Theobroma sativum var. leucospermum A. Chev.
  • Theobroma sativum var. melanospermum A. Chev.
  • Theobroma sphaerocarpum A. Chev. [6]
  • Cocoa minar Gaertn.
  • Theobroma cacao f. leiocarpum (Bernoulli) Ducke
  • Theobroma cacao subsp. leiocarpum (Bernoulli) Cuatrec.
  • Theobroma cacao var. leiocarpum (Bernoulli) Cif.
  • Theobroma cacao subsp. sativa (Aubl.) León
  • Theobroma cacao var. typica Cif.
  • Theobroma caribaea Sweet
  • Theobroma saltzmanniana Bernoulli
  • Theobroma sativa (Aubl.) Lign. & Le Bey
  • Theobroma sativa var. leucosperma A.Chev.
  • Theobroma sativa var. melanosperma A. Chev. [7]

Common name

  • Cocoa, cocoa tree or cocoa tree.

Fruit interior


It is mainly distributed in the Caribbean and South America , although they can be found in other parts of the world.

In Cuba

Cocoa was introduced in Cuba in 1540, by Cabaiguán , a municipality in the current province of Santi Spiritus, developing the first plantations in the central region of Cuba. With the passing of time and for various reasons, cocoa settled in the eastern region. This region has two large mountainous massifs, where cocoa is grown: the best area in the Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa massif, where the humidity-laden northwesterly winds unload enough rain in the north central part of this territory, and another area in the Sierra Maestra massif, with very good areas but less humid and with more slopes. Most of the plantations are located on land with slopes, with a tendency to erosion and a smaller part on flat land affected at certain times of the year by drainage problems, mainly in the Baracoa municipality , the largest cocoa producer in Cuba.

There are different types of cocoa in the country, obtained or introduced from different places, propagated by various methods, established under different shading systems, in regions with climate and soil conditions that are not the same, having different ages. commercially in Cuba it corresponds to the “Trinitario” Group, distributed in different types that are:

  • Traditional cocoa: Plantations or very old plants, with more than 40 years, propagated by seeds, which have received different agro-technical attention during their long life.
  • Cacao Hijos de TSH: Introduced to the country in the 70s of the last century, by seeds and reproduced by this method in some areas, planted mainly under thinned shade of the forests or old coffee plantations, being found in the cocoa municipalities of the provinces Granma, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín and western Guantánamo.
  • Hybrid cocoa: Produced by hybrid seeds, extended from 1991, being in most of the cocoa municipalities of the country, whose plantations continue to increase.
  • Clonal cocoa: Mainly from UF clones, introduced in 1955, reproduced mainly by grafts whose expansion was from the late 1970s to the early 1990s of the last century, currently reactivating the spread of this type of cocoa, due to its high quality , through grafts and micrografts. These plantations are located in the Baracoa, Imías and Maisí municipalities. Continuously planting cocoa in new areas and renovating old plantations which need to be given the agrotechnical care required for the growth and production of cocoa plants, is continued permanently, so that this is achieved quickly and abundantly, with high yields by area and low cost, helping the economic stability of cocoa producers and their families, as well as satisfying a part of the chocolate consumption of the country’s population, with a very good quality cocoa. To convey to producers, workers, extension agents, technicians, researchers, managers and other participants in the cocoa environment, the latest results of the investigations in Cuba and those received from the cocoa world on the management of cocoa plantations, as well as techniques that must be applied to improve the current conditions of the existing plantations, this Technical Manual has been prepared that contains how to control weeds, regulate shade, prune and de-leaf cocoa, conserve the soil, drain the areas, fertilize, control the diseases and pests and replanting cacao groves.


  • Radical system:


Pivoting main root and has many secondary ones, most of which are in the first 30 cm of soil.

  • Leaves: Simple, whole and quite variable green color (light brown, purple or reddish, pale green) and short petiole.
  • Flowers: They are small and, like the fruits, are produced in small clusters on the mature tissue older than one year of the trunk and branches, around where there were leavesbefore . The flowers are small, they open in the afternoon and can be fertilized throughout the following day. The calyx is pink in color with pointed segments; the corolla is whitish, yellow or pink. The petals are long. The pollination is entomófila highlighting a gnat of the genus Forcipomya .
  • Fruit:


Of variable size, color and shapes, but generally they are berry-shaped, 30 cm long and 10 cm in diameter, being smooth or ribbed, elliptical in shape, and red, yellow, purple or brown in color . The wall of the fruit is thick, hard or smooth and of consistency like leather. The fruits are divided internally into five cells. The pulp is white, pink or brown , from acid to sweet and aromatic flavor. The content of seeds per berry is 20 to 40 and they are flat or rounded, white, brown or purple, sweet or bitter.

Edaphoclimatic requirements

Climate requirements:



Critical climatic factors for cocoa development are temperature and rainfall. These are joined by wind and light or solar radiation. Cocoa is a plant that grows in the shade. Relative humidity is also important since it can contribute to the spread of some fruit diseases. These climatic demands have made cocoa cultivation concentrated in the tropical lowlands.

  • Temperature: Cocoa does not withstand low temperatures, its average annual temperature limit being 21 ºC since it is difficult to grow cocoa satisfactorily at a lower temperature. Extreme high temperatures can cause physiological changes in the tree, making it a crop that must be in the shade so that the sun’s rays do not directly affect the temperature.
  • Water: Cocoa is a plant sensitive to water scarcity but also to waterlogging, so it will require soils with good drainage. Waterlogging or stagnation can cause root suffocation and death in a very short time. Water needs range from 1,500 to 2,500 mm in the warmer lowlands and 1,200 to 1,500 mm in the cooler areas or high valleys.
  • Wind: Continuous winds can cause drying, death and leaf fall. For this reason, the use of windbreaks is necessary in coastal areas so that cocoa is not damaged. Windbreaks are usually made up of different tree species (fruit or wood) that are arranged around cocoa trees.
  • Shading: Cocoa is a typically umbrophilous crop. The objective of shading at the beginning of the plantation is to reduce the amount of radiation that reaches the crop to reduce the activity of the plant and protect the crop from winds that could harm it. When the crop is established, the shading percentage can be reduced to 25 or 30%. The luminosity should be more or less 50% during the first 4 years of life of the plants, so that they reach a good development and limit the growth of weeds.

So-called shade species are used for crop shading, which are generally other fruit trees interspersed in the crop with regular planting frames. The most used species are musaceae ( plantain , topochos and cambur) for temporary shades and legumes such as poró or bucare (Eritrina sp.) And guabas (Ingas) for permanent shadows. In new cocoa plantations, other shading species are beginning to be used, which provide greater economic benefits such as timber species (laurel, cedar, ash and terminalia) and / or fruit species (citrus, avocado , sapote, breadfruit, date palm). , etc.).

Ground requirements

Cocoa requires soils rich in organic matter, deep, clay loam, with good drainage and regular topography. The limiting factor of the soil in cocoa development is the thin humic layer. This layer degrades very quickly when the soil surface is exposed to the sun, wind and direct rain. For this reason it is common to use auxiliary leguminous plants that provide the necessary shade and are a constant source of nitrogen substances for cultivation.

The plantations are located on soils ranging from heavily eroded heavy clays to newly formed volcanic sands and silts, with pH ranging from 4.0 to 7.0. Cocoa can be said to be a plant that thrives in a wide diversity of soil types .

Commercial varieties

Two breeds of cocoa are distinguished:


  • Outsider (= Trinitarian) or Bitter cocoa.

Native to the Americas, it is the most cultivated breed in the cocoa regions of Africa and Brazil . It is characterized by its hard, woody shell fruits, with a relatively smooth surface and flattened grains of purple color and a bitter taste. Within this breed, different varieties stand out such as Cundeamor, Amelonado, sambito, Zucchini and Angoleta.

  • Creole, hybrid or sweet cocoa.

They are currently replacing the old Forasteros plantations due to their greater adaptability to different environmental conditions and their higher quality fruits. They are characterized by their soft-shelled fruits and round seeds, white to violet in color, sweet and with a pleasant flavor. The surface of the fruit has ten marked longitudinal grooves, five of which are deeper than those that alternate with them. The loins are prominent, warty, and irregular.

Cultural practices

Soil preparation

Soil is the fundamental medium in the development of cacao groves. It must be protected against direct sunlight as these rapidly degrade the layer of humus they may contain. For this reason, adequate shading and leaf litter maintenance are recommended, not doing deep work and cutting weeds as low as possible. Leaf litter and shading help maintain the necessary moisture during the dry months.

Cocoa is a very sensitive plant to waterlogged so it is recommended to use adequate drains to prevent waterlogging. The construction of channels that collect and conduct excess rainwater is recommended to prevent it from removing litter and the humic horizon of the soil.

Weed control


  • Greater use of nutrients and soil moisture by cocoa and shade plants.
  • Lower incidence of pests.
  • There is no competition for light, as occurs when there is vine on the plants or in developing plantations when the herbs are larger than the cocoa plants.
  • There is no allelopathic effect of other plants affecting cocoa.

Main problems

  • Plantations or cocoa plants with a ring full of grasses, which are herbs with a more profuse root system than cocoa and faster growth.
  • Developing plantations where vines and herbs cover the plants, causing growth or death reduction.
  • Vines covering the plants that are in the edges and clearings of some plantation fields in production.
  • In plantations that have a cockroach as a live cover, it covers the cocoa trunk, being more critical in plants propagated by grafts, which branch and fructify very close to the ground.
  • Lack of shading and soil protection, fundamental cause of the birth of weeds in the cacao plantation.

Effects of weeds

  • It is known that while one hectare of cocoa extracts 12 kg of Nitrogen, 6 kg of Phosphorus (P2O5) and 10 kg of Potassium (K2O), one hectare of grasses extracts 112 kg of N, 43 kg of P2O5 and 125 kg of K2O.
  • The competition for water between weeds and cocoa has great significance, since grasses, which dominate in the first years of a cacao plantation, offer a greater transpiration surface, fed by a larger, well-distributed and profuse root system, that allows greater radii and absorption speed, also having a proliferation of seed production.
  • Weeds cause another more serious problem, the great antagonism they offer to the development of the crop, not only from the point of view of competition for water, light or nutrients, but because many of them secrete toxic substances

through root exudates, which hinder the development of underculture plants.

  • Some weeds like vines make photosynthesis difficult for cocoa plants by not allowing light to pass through, in addition to deforming them.
  • Weeds in young plantations make cultivation difficult and can be hosts of pests and diseases.
  • An adult cocoa plantation, with the plants well distributed, without failures, the canopy foliage superimposed and with shade trees suitable for shading the soil, does little work and costs very little to maintain the fight against weeds. Shaded reass promote the growth of wetter, succulent and easier to destroy weeds.
  • A good soil protection, ensured by the shady one, is essential throughout the first years to avoid its degradation, to likewise avoid the development of adventitious plants and especially grasses of creeping root that quickly cover the soil exposed to full light. and they compete strongly with cocoa.

Main weeds in the cacao groves

  • Bledo ( Amarantus dubius)
  • Bloodroot ( Alternanthera polygonsides)
  • Romerillo ( Bidens pilosa)
  • Chives or caramaná ( Ciperus rotundus)
  • Fine grass ( Cynodon dactylon)
  • Don Juan de Castilla ( Digitaria adscendes)
  • Pasty ( Desmodium canum)
  • Mete bravo ( Echinochloa colonum)
  • Chicken foot ( Eleusine indica)
  • Milky ( Euphorbia heterophyla)
  • Nib ( Leptochloa panicea)
  • Guaca vine ( Mikania)
  • Dormidera ( Mimosa pudica)
  • Cundeamor ( Momordica charantia)
  • Malva mulata ( Malvastum coromandelianum)
  • Man’s Heart ( Peperomia pullucida)
  • Anamú ( Petiveria alliacea)
  • Bitter broom ( Partinium hystoreforus)
  • Cow’s tongue ( Sanseviera guineensis)
  • Purslane ( Portulaca oleracea)
  • Dry love ( Priva lappulacea)
  • Oroazul ( Phyla strigulosa)
  • Turban ( Panicum fasciculatus)
  • Aji snake ( Rivina humilis)
  • White mallow ( Urena lobata)
  • Stew ( Cenchrus)
  • Horse stew( Xantium strumarium )
  • Cattail ( Setaria geniculata)
  • Canutillo ( Commelina diffusa)
  • Uber vine ( Cissus sicyoides)
  • SmellyYerba ( Cassia obtisifolia )
  • Fillet ( Solanum erianthum)

Control methods

There are 4 control methods:

  • Biological control, through the use of coverage:

live, mainly in developing plantations, and the dead, contributed by the residues of the clean, the cocoa itself and the shading plants; shade is another biological control, through temporary and permanent shade plants; the cocoa population; temporary crops in the area preparation stage and in the crop development stage.

  • Manual control, using the machete and the hoe, is the most common method and the one that needs the most workforce.
  • Chemical control, through the use of contact or residual herbicides.
  • Mechanical control, using manual or tractor moulders, mainly during the development stage.
  • The application of Integrated Control is very important, that is, they combine two of these methods so that with less cost, speed and less damage to the environment the undesirable herbs are eliminated.
Biologic control
  • This is applied mainly in developing plantations and in the case of production plantations if there are very large “gaps” or “gaps” or they have been affected by a cyclone or the fall of a large tree.
  • To prevent weeds from sprouting and growing as quickly as possible through biological control, the following will be done:
    • Sow the temporary shade where it is missing, of banana.
    • Sow the live cover of Zebrina pendula (Cockroach).
  • Other measures that can be applied:
    • Distribute all existing plant debris in the area to create a dead cover that reduces weed growth.
    • Plant shading trees where shade is lacking.
    • Establish barriers in places with slopes so that the water does not drag the existing vegetation cover.
    • Perform drains where necessary to prevent the spread of seeds and stolons from weeds.
    • Reseed the cocoa so that it covers the empty spaces.
    • Make selection of children in deformed plants that leave “clear” in the cacao groves, so that they cover the spaces where sunlight reaches the ground.
Manual control

To carry out manual control of weeds you must do the following:

  • Do not let the grass grow until it emits seeds, to avoid dispersal and to extract too many nutrients and water from the soil.
  • Periodically veneer the plants that reproduce by stolons or rhizomes, to reduce their reserves, reducing the population of weeds.
  • Keep the hemp of the cocoa plant free of undesirable herbs.
  • Eliminate the young vine, before it begins to climb.
  • When cleaning, do it between two lands, that is, as close to the ground as possible, to avoid leaving high stumps, which then tend to emit several children, invading and growing more quickly.
  • Use the hoe only in flat places and preferably to remove grass, mainly scrim, and to clean the hedge of developing plants or to review individual terraces on slopes.
  • Clean the hem very carefully with the machete, pulling the herbs closest to the trunk by hand, to avoid cuts to the stem of the young plants.
  • In the fields where the “taro” exists, keep it veneered, always preventing it from going up to the plants.
  • In places where there are many stones, especially in the mountains, create cords with these, in addition to preserving the soil, reducing damage to the machete.
  • On sloping land, during the development stage or as long as the cocoa does not cover the ground with its leaves and its shadow, the hedging or the transverse thread to the slope between two lands will be made and on the street the grass will be veneered more high, so that it serves as a living barrier.
  • Thoroughly clean the edges of the fields, especially those that are in the highest parts or that border areas of forest or bush, to prevent the vine from invading the cocoa plants.
  • Keep the edges of the guardrails clean, to reduce the production of weed seeds.
  • The frequency of the cleanings will depend on the existing shade and the rain that falls.
    • In developing plantations up to 9 or 10 cleanings can be given per year.
    • In production plantations in good condition with 2 cleanings per year weeds are controlled.


It is a technique that consists of removing all the unnecessary suckers and branches, as well as the diseased and dead parts of the tree. Pruning has a direct effect on the growth and production of the cocoa tree since the height of the trees is limited and the incidence of pests and diseases is reduced. There are several types of pruning:

  • Formation pruning: It is carried out during the first year of the tree, and consists of leaving a single stem and observing the formation of the fork or whorl, which should be formed approximately between 10 and 16 months of age of the plant, with the object of leaving four or more main or primary branches to form the frame and the future crown of the tree. These main branches will be the future wood where most of the ears will form, as well as in the main trunk.

The softer the pruned material, the better results are obtained. In the second and third year, the secondary branches are chosen and so on, until the top of the tree is formed. Crossed branches that are close together and those that tend to go inward will be removed.

  • Maintenance pruning: From two or three years of age the trees should be subjected to a light pruning by means of which the tree is kept in good shape and the suckers and dead or badly placed branches are removed. The objective of this pruning is to preserve the development and proper and balanced growth of the cocoa plant.
  • Phytosanitary pruning: All defective, dry, diseased, torn, twisted, crossed branches and weak branches that are close together should be removed. You must also understand the harvesting of damaged or diseased fruits.
  • Rehabilitation pruning: It is carried out in those old cacao groves that are unproductive and consists of regenerating these poorly formed or old trees with partial pruning, conserving the best branches, or pruning the trunk to stimulate the growth of suckers, choosing the most vigorous and best located , close to the ground, on which a new tree will be built. It is also possible to graft the suckers and then grow only the grafts.
  • Shadow pruning: It is done in the shade species to prevent them from branching at low altitude and preventing the development of cocoa plants. They are pruned once or twice a year to promote crop management. Low, leftover branches of permanent shade plants are cut. Proper shade control is very important for obtaining good cocoa yields, so shading percentages close to 30% are recommended.


Vegetative propagation

The cocoa grafting must be carried out in vigorous and healthy patterns obtained from seed, developed in containers or in the field. Older trees can be grafted, provided that the grafts are made on young twigs already present or on shoots that occur after the plants have been pruned to a height of 30 to 50 cm.

  • Approach graft. It is too laborious and expensive in commercial practice. Sliver or veneer grafting and modified Forkert are also used.
  • Graft with buds. It is one of the most widely used techniques. The buds should be taken from those shoots found on healthy and vigorous trees. Buds should be about the same age as the bosses, but the buds should be firm, stubby and ready to go into active development. The bud grafting should not be done in the rainy season since it can favor the development of fungal diseases.
  • Use of stakes. In the multiplication of trees by cuttings or bud grafting, greater planting uniformity is obtained, stronger trees that can be pruned to give them a better structure, because the branches have more space in which to develop. Better yields per area are obtained, concentrating production in the areas closest to the ground and therefore reducing collection costs. The disadvantages of this type of propagation are the high costs of obtaining and caring for the trees.

Propagation by seed

It is the oldest and most common form for the establishment of cocoa plantations but a great variability of trees is obtained, so its use is not recommended except when using high quality seeds. In recent years, sowing with certified seed has been recommended, due to the good behavior of trees from controlled pollination seed, using selected clones. These hybrids have shown a high precocity in fruiting and a vigorous development of the plants. The hybrid seed is produced by pollinating in a controlled manner by manipulating the flowers of the selected clones during fertilization.


Cocoa trees bloom twice a year, with the main flowering period being June and July. In the months of September and October a second but smaller bloom takes place. The ripening period of the fruits ranges from four to six months, depending on the height above sea level and the temperature. Thus the first harvest is concentrated in the months of October, November and December, and the second during March and April.

Defective, diseased or wormy fruit is destroyed directly in the field and buried. Healthy ears are opened in the field to extract the seeds and transfer them to the processing center.

Nutritional value

With a variety of minerals, vitamins, calories and other nutrients, cocoa products are also palatable




The chocolate and cocoa products, at the same time are a pleasure to the ingest, are also a nutritional value. All foods have nutritional value, related to the amount and type of proteins , carbohydrates , fats , minerals and vitamins they contain. The body uses food for growth, repair and control the functions of the body and provide energy for its daily activities. No food contains all the required nutrients, so it is necessary to have a balanced diet.

Fats are a source of energy. Cocoa and chocolate contain fat in the form of cocoa butter. Its digestibility and assimilation is very high.

Proteins have a high value as builders of the body’s tissues.

Regardless of the presence of a wide variety of amino acids in cocoa, neither cocoa nor chocolate are an important source of protein, as might be expected.

Carbohydrates, in the form of sugars, provide a quick access energy source. If the organism’s resources are deficient due to exercise or due to the lack of a regular diet, the sugars in jams provide one of the fastest ways to restore balance, and that is why products made with cocoa and chocolate are consumed with frequency between meals, and sometimes as a substitute for them, in special conditions of great physical effort.

Chocolate components

Chocolate can be made in many different ways and contains other ingredients besides cocoa. Its nutritional value varies depending on these ingredients. For example, pure (dark) chocolate has a high proportion of cocoa solids and consequently retains more of the nutritional values ​​of cocoa than chocolate mixed with milk, which has a lower proportion of cocoa solids. But in the latter, milk provides a rich source of protein that the body can use and therefore, its protein value is higher.

Alleged disadvantages

Chocolate has been blamed for causing obesity , as a result of the imbalance between the energies that are ingested and those that are expended; excess fat in the body is a consequence of excessive fat intake in relation to its expenditure. Research does not show that the obese are obese because they have a high consumption of chocolate jams. The existence of a relationship between the consumption of chocolate and obesity has therefore not been demonstrated.

Another area of ​​concern for consumers is cholesterol . After 40 years of research into the effect, it has only been shown that cocoa butter has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol levels, that is, it cannot be attributed a high action.

Jams are said to cause tooth decay . Any food that has carbohydrates can potentially produce them, to the extent that bacteria Existing in the mouth metabolize fermentable carbohydrates, and form acids and a variation in the level of these in the mouth, and as a result the demineralization of tooth enamel and caries. The cariogenicity of food is not necessarily related to its sugar content (sugar is less cariogenic than starches because it dissolves in water and saliva, and is thus quickly eliminated from the mouth). Foods containing 50% sugars are no more cariogenic than those containing 10%. For this reason, unsweetened chocolate is not related to the appearance of cavities. Other research has shown that other elements present in cocoa, such as tannins , can inhibit plaque formation in teeth.

Cocoa contains caffeine in small amounts. Cocoa beans undergo a drying and fermentation process to reveal their flavor and color. The amount of caffeine in grams varies with the type of beans and the degree of fermentation . Consequently, the chocolate powder contains caffeine, between 0.1 and 0.5%.

The mycotoxins are poisons that occur naturally in many foods, particularly grains, by forming mold, for example, aflatoxins and ochratoxin A . Mycotoxin contamination can be prevented by creating unfavorable conditions for mold and fungus growth . Mycotoxins are destroyed by heat.

There are organic substances in the world that contain nitrogen , among them methylxanthines , derived from caffeine, theobromine and theophylline . They are closely related structures, with similar pharmaceutical properties, present in around 60 plant species. They are called by the common name of alkaloids. Theobromine is the largest alkaloid present in cocoa and contributes to its bitter taste. Methylxanthines are mild stimulants, but practically no effect of theobromine on the central nervous system has been reported. Methylxanthines have been shown to relax the muscles of the bronchi in the lungs., but its effect is practically nil when consumed as part of food or drinks. All methylxanthines have a diuretic effect , but it is only noticeable when consumed with large amounts of water.

Researchers have found that dogs are particularly sensitive to theobromine, only when the amounts ingested vary between 100 and 1000 grams. Its moderate consumption does not cause adverse physiological effects on human health, since theobromine levels are very low.

Chocolate cravings

Many people describe their desire to consume chocolate as a compelling necessity, and also report that chocolate reduces emotional tension. This effect is still under study.

Recent research has shown that chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain can affect how a person feels. One of these substances, serotonin helps to calm and relax the individual. Some consider that the decrease in serotonins in the brain causes the desire to eat starches and sweet foods, such as chocolate. When serotonin rises, the feeling of feeling good is recovered. Similar effects cause endorphin, which apparently is controlled in the body by fats and, consequently, it is also suggested that that contained in foods, such as chocolate, may improve mood, by increasing the level of endorphin. But the presence in chocolate of other elements, such as phenylethylamines and amphetamines is so small, that no influence is reported in the brain or in human behavior.

The ingestion of the pharmacological constituents present in the chocolate cannot be related to the desire to eat this food. Apparently, the factor of greater weight in this behavior is the obtaining of pleasure. Chocolate is not seen as a basic food, but as indulgent or complacent, which causes pleasure and, therefore, although it is a highly desired food, it is ingested with limitation.


A project financed by the Common Fund for Commodities, aimed at promoting generic cocoa, was carried out in Japan through the Chocolate and Cocoa Association of that country, with the sponsorship of the International Cocoa Organization . The most important aspect of this project was aimed at investigating the benefits of cocoa on human health. Their results were presented at two symposia held in Japan on the nutritional aspects of chocolate and cocoa.

The production of active oxygen in the body has been shown to be a factor to consider in the presence of cancer, arteriosclerosis and diabetes . The findings made in the aforementioned project show that the polyphenol contained in cocoa plays a role in suppressing active oxygen; It inhibits the action of the mutagenic components that initiate cancer , and reduces the risk of arteriosclerosis . Its strong inhibitory effect was also found in rheumatoid factors and in the production of immunoglobulin that exacerbates topical dermatitis and asthma.. Previous research has also found that the polyphenol present in cocoa may provide the means to treat many of the diseases associated with immune disorders, by suppressing the excessive activity of certain cells in the immune system. At the same time, this polyphenol inhibits the adverse effects of stress . The presence of lignin in cocoa helps to inhibit hypertension and increase blood cholesterol

Consequently, it can be said that the consumption of cocoa, in moderate amounts, not only does not produce adverse effects on the human organism, but also provides health benefits that cannot be ignored.

Plantation frames

Sweet cocoa varieties are planted 3.5 to 4.5 m apart. Bitter cocoa varieties and hybrids, being more vigorous, are generally planted at a distance of 5 to 6 m. The current trend of new plantations is to place all varieties at intervals of 3.5 to 3.75 m.

The frames followed are normally 3.6 x 3.6 m quadrangular, although there are rectangular, triangular and hexagonal or contour systems. It is recommended to place the plants in the middle of the normal separations and then carry out a gradual thinning of the plantation depending on the desired production and the marres that may appear. The mares can be replaced by select kinship grafts.


Being tropical areas and with high rainfall, the contribution of water from the rain is sufficient to meet the water demands of the crop. As explained above, in areas where there is excess water, it is necessary to adequately evacuate it to avoid waterlogging of the crop. In areas with less rainfall, the appropriate shading percentages will be used to avoid excessive loss of moisture in the soil .


In the transplant, you must put organic fertilizer or fertilizer at the bottom. Then, 3 months after sowing, it is advisable to fertilize 100 grams of a fertilizer such as 20-10-6-5- around one plant with a kilogram of organic fertilizer or bio-fertilizer, in a diameter of approximately 80 cm. During the first and second year, the needs per plant are 60 grams of nitrogen, 30 g of P205, 24 g of K20 and 82 g of S O4. From the third year on, the fertilizer must be done based on a soil analysis .

In general, it is advisable to apply fertilizers in three or four applications, in order to avoid losses of elements due to evaporation or runoff, thus facilitating the plant with the nutritive elements at the most appropriate times for better use.


Cocoa is one of the economic plants that, at the same time that they can suffer considerable damage from insects, also needs some of them in certain reproductive processes; therefore, an abuse in the indiscriminate use of insecticides can lead to subsequent economic failures. In addition to the harmful insects in the cacao groves, there are beneficial insects such as pollinators, predators, and parasites of other harmful insects. The harmful insects are many, but they are fought by their predators.


  • Aphids: Small, dark-colored insects, always grouped in colonies; they attack buds, leaves and flowers; they also attack young fruits which, when they do not have seeds, may have developed due to the stimulus of the attack of the insects on the flower (parthenocarpic). It is very common to find them in young plants up to 6 and 7 years old. These insects are generally cared for by ants of the genera Crematogaster, Camponotus and Ectatoma.

There are several species that attack cocoa; the most common and which attacks the most organs is the Toxoptera aurantii species. The species that mainly attacks flower peduncles is Aphys gossypii, a fairly cosmopolitan species. They can be fought with Thiodan or Metasystox R. The application should only be repeated when necessary.

  • Cocoa or monalonion capsules (Monalonion braconoides):

Cocoa affected by Monalonion braconoides

They damage the ears and the terminal buds; they cause deformations in the ears, attacking them and laying their eggs. If the attack is very severe or at an extreme, and when the fruit is quite young, the ear can be lost, but in general the damage does not reach the inner part of the fruit; consequently, the seeds are not damaged. The main damage is the regressive death of the twigs. The biological combat of these insects is not well known. It can be fought with Sevin and diazinon.

  • Spittlebug (Clastoptera globosa): It is an insect that mainly attacks flowers and can dry them. When there is a strong attack there can be a lot of destruction of flowers and flower cushions; it also attacks terminal shoots. It is fought with Metasystox-R.
  • Bedbugs: There are several types of bedbugs. They can transmit diseases and in some places they are considered as transmitters of Moniliasis. They live in colonies, on the cob stalk, causing chancros-like lesions or shallow dark sores. They can be fought with Metasystox-R.
  • Stem Borer (Cerambycidae): There are two types. The attack of most of these insects is a secondary attack. Some species can kill seedlings when they are young (less than one year old). The female scrapes the tender bark on the terminal part and lays her eggs. When the larvae develop, they penetrate the stem and feed internally, forming small galleries; they reach their pupal stage after several months, causing the death of the affected seedlings or branches. Fights with Thiodan.
  • Measuring worms or defoliators: They are Lepidopteran larvae that generally attack the tender foliage and cause much destruction in it. Its damage is similar to that of the ant, but can be identified by the shape of the cut. The damage is more pronounced in the interveinal part of the blade. Skeleton worms that pierce the interveinal areas and only leave the leaf veins dry can also be included here. They can cause serious damage seasonally, but are generally not a serious problem and can live in an area for a long time without causing much damage. They are fought with Sevin.
  • Ants or Zompopas: They defoliate plants by cutting typical semicircular portions, easily identifiable; a young plant can be completely defoliated in a short time. Ants can be combated by attacking nests and destroying the feeding sites they produce in living areas. Applications must be made on dry days to avoid material loss.
  • Trips: They are considered beneficial insects that help pollinate cocoa, although in an inefficient way. When they are located on the leaves and their attack is strong, they give the appearance of dry or burned and fall easily. When they attack the fruits, they present a rusty nuance, which prevents the identification of the maturity of the ears. They can be fought with Metasystox when you notice that the insects are forming colonies. If the attack is on very young ears, the result may be the death of the ear.
  • Fruit borers (Grupo Marmara): The females lay the eggs in the immature fruits and the larvae make galleries inside them, causing a dark brown or dark brown coloration that partially or totally invades the ear. It is fought with Lannate.
  • Chrysomelids: Small, brightly colored beetles. There are many species that attack cocoa. Most are nocturnal pests of young leaves, which make small holes. They can also cause damage to the fruits, forming superficial lesions, which can serve as gateways for some diseases, although by themselves they do not cause loss of ears. They fight with Sevin and Thiodan.
  • Scolytids: There are many species that attack cocoa trunks by making tunnels. Some species have been related to the disease called Machete disease, most belong to the genus Xyleborus. Almost all are secondary borer insects, attacking previously affected trunks. Sawdust accumulation can be noticed at the foot of trees attacked by some species of these insects. They fight with Sevin and Thiodan.
  • Joboto (Phyllophaga sp.): The larvae of these beetles can present a problem, especially when a nursery is made in the ground and the place was previously cultivated with corn or other grasses. They cause damage to the roots. Little is known about these insects in tropical areas. It can be controlled with some organophosphate insecticides.


They attack young shoots, especially in the nursery. They cause atrophy, malformation and defoliation of terminal shoots, damage that can be combated with Kelthane, Metasystox-R or Tedion. Before spraying, it is advisable to prune and burn the affected shoots. The application of any of the products should be done by moistening the new shoots of the plant well.


  • The black cob:

Cocoa with black cob

This is the most important cocoa disease in all cocoa areas in the world; caused by fungi of the Phytophthora complex, it is responsible for more crop losses than any other disease in the region. Although the fungus can attack seedlings and different parts of the cocoa tree, such as flower cushions, suckers, buds, leaves, branches, trunk and roots, the main damage is suffered by the pods. In the fruit the infection appears in the form of brown, approximately circular dark spots that quickly enlarge and spread over the entire surface through the cob. The almonds become infected, are useless and within 10 to 15 days the ear is completely rotten. The disease can be combated through cultural techniques, the use of fungicides and the use of resistant cultivars.

  • Machete Evil: Caused by the Ceratocystis fimbriata fungus, it destroys entire trees. The fungus always infects cocoa through injury to the main trunks and branches and can quickly kill a tree. The first visible symptoms are wilting and yellowing of the leaves and by that time the tree is actually already dead. Within two to four weeks the entire crown dries out, with the dead leaves remaining attached to the tree for a time.
  • The bubas: They are characterized by a bulge and abnormal growth of the floral cushions. Although five different types of bubas have been identified, only two are important: the green-spotted loggerhead, caused by the fungus Calonectria (Fusarium) rigidiuscula, and the floral loggerhead, the causative agent of which is unknown. The only known form of combat is the use of resistant cultivars.
  • Moniliasis: Also known as Watery Rot, Frost, Ash Stain or Quevedo Disease, is caused by the Monilia fungus (Moniliophthora) roreri E. (C. and P.). The disease attacks only the cocoa fruits and is considered to be one of the most important limiting factors in the production of that plant. It can cause losses ranging between 16 and 80% of the plantation. The severity of the Monilia attack varies according to the area and time of year, according to weather conditions. Apparently, high temperatures are more favorable for the spread of Monilia.

To combat the disease, a shade management has been recommended that allows a greater passage of light and greater aeration to reduce ambient humidity, carry out periodic pruning, harvest the ripe fruits periodically, avoid stagnation of the crop and eliminate the fruits. affected by burying them, trying not to spread the fungus spores through the plantation.

Fruit Treatments

Fresh cocoa beans become a commercial product through four main operations:

  • Fermentation: It is the process by which the proper quality of cocoa is given to make chocolate; the seeds are cleaned, the embryo is killed and the almonds are given a good presentation. This requires conditioned and well ventilated places. When the almonds do not ferment, this process is performed poorly or poorly, the so-called ordinary cocoa is produced.

During the process, the combined and balanced action of temperature, alcohols, acids, pH and humidity kill the embryo, the bitter taste decreases due to the loss of theobromine and the biochemical reactions that form the chocolate occur.

The duration of the fermentation system should not be more than three days for native or white cotyledon cocoas and eight days for foreign or purple or purple cotyledon cocoas. There are several methods to carry out the fermentation, the most used being the fermentation in piles, in bags, in boxes, the Rohan method and the use of tendales.

  • Washing: The beans are washed at the end of fermentation in certain countries to remove pulp particles. The coarser types generally do not need washing, since prolonged fermentation has completely disintegrated the pulp. The Creoles are never washed. There is a certain influence of washing on the aroma of foreign varieties. The current trend is to suppress this process and transfer the beans directly from the fermentation tanks to the dryers.
  • Drying: The drying of the cocoa is the process during which the almonds finish losing the excess moisture that they contain and are ready to be sold and in the case of fermented cocoa they complete this process. It is possible to go from almonds with 55% humidity to almonds with 6 – 8%. During this time the cocoa beans finish the changes to obtain the chocolate flavor and aroma. Color changes also occur, with the typical brown color of properly fermented and dried cocoa appearing.

There are different drying methods, which can be natural, taking advantage of the temperature of the sun’s rays and obtaining almonds with a greater aroma, or artificial drying by using stoves or mechanical dryers (Samoa dryer) by passing a stream of dry and hot air through the cocoa mass.

  • Selection, classification, storage and grating: The dry grains must be selected to eliminate the soil, loose particles of the seed shell and broken grains, for this a series of meshes arranged in series are used and the grains pass through of them, hot air currents remove impurities. There are rules that apply to cocoa beans or almonds to classify them according to their quality, for this a sample of cocoa is taken at random and the beans are cut lengthwise. The factors that determine the quality of cocoa can be grouped into factors of heredity, environment and benefit (fermentation and drying).


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