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Establishment and Management of Cacao Farm

In any crop, good production and income start with the best establishment practices and management of a variety being produced. Aside from choosing the best variety, propagation techniques and management of seedlings in the nursery, good farm management practices during establishment and maintenance of cacao contributes to high and sustainable production of the crop. 

Clearing the Area 

The system used in clearing the area depend so much on the existing vegetation, whether it is a previously cropped area, cogonal field, second growths or virgin forest. In previously cropped areas, manual, mechanical or chemical weeding can be used to control weeds like cogon and talahib. 

Establishment of Roads and Drainage Networks

In large farms, roads should be a major consideration and spaced 200 meters apart. Roads should always be laid out across the slope or along contours. When necessary, roads of three meters wide should be provided with side drain as interceptor. Drainage is important in the farm as conveyance for excess water that could uproot cacao trees and wash away top soil. In sloping and the hilly areas, drainage canals may not be necessary. The spacing distance and dimension of canals and slope gradient depends on the topography of the area.

Establishment of Shade

Establishment of Shade Shade is important for cacao plants during seedling or immature stage. Cacao cannot tolerate high light intensity since scalding of leaves can result. In open areas, shade plantsor nurse trees should be established at least six months before field planting. Shade trees should be planted parallel to the planting lines. 

Permanent shade crops that have thin canopy, tall trunk and do not defoliate seasonally are ideal to intercrop with cocoa trees for long periods. Among the recommended shade trees are ipil-ipil, madre de cacao, pigeon pea, coconut, cashew, longan, durian or banana. If the area to be planted is a second growth or virgin forest, it is better to preserve some trees to serve as shade. In exposed areas, coconut fronds may be used as shade to prevent direct exposure of cacao plants to sunlight. 

Staking and Spacing 

Spacing or planting distance depends on population, cropping system, variety and shade condition. Divide the land area into desired distance. Use a string or thin rope to align the rows. Drive pegs where dividing lines meet to mark the place where holes will be made. Most common distance are: • High density = 1.5 x 2.0 x 6.0 m = 2,300 trees /ha in double hedge row planting. • Low density = 3 x 2 m = 1,666 plants/ha or 2.5 x 2.5 m = 1,600 plants/ha. Dependeing on the existing shade trees and soil fertility, the planting density of cacao varies from 400 to 1,100 plants per hectare. In case of intercropping in coconut and cashew, the density of cacao averages about 600 plants per hectare.

Hole Digging 

During planting, remove pegs and dig holes in the pegged area big enough to accommodate the ball of the soil mass. Normally, a hole with a depth and diameter of 30 cm wide x 30cm long and 30 cm deep is enough. 

In preparing holes, the surface soil (6” deep) should be separated from the subsoil. This is used to cover the base of the ball of soil holding the seedling. 

Plant immediately after digging holes to preserve the available moisture in the soil. 


Plant cacao seedlings early morning or late in the afternoon. Transplant five to eight months old seedlings. It is not advisable to plant seedling with young and soft flush leaves as they are susceptible to sunburn, planting shocks or stress. 

Best season to plant in the field is during the onset of the rainy season. 

Before transplanting the seedlings, fill half of the hole with soil mixed with 14- 14-14 fertilizer at the rate of 250 grams per hole. Cover the ball of soil attached to the seedlings with the top soil.


Mulching preserves soil moisture, prevents the growth of weeds, becomes a source of organic matter and improves the structure and texture of the soil. It makes the soil more porous t h u s promoting better root development. Mulching should be done during dry season when soil moisture easily evaporates and weeds germinate fast. 

Weed the area before mulching. Coconut husks, banana leaves, coconut fronds, paper cement bags, rice straw, cogon, or any other weeds cut during ring weeding can be used as mulch. 


Weeding can be done either manually or with the use of chemicals. Ring weeding is commonly used where weeds within the radius of one meter from the stem are removed using a sickle. The weeds cut are placed back around the base of the plant to serve as mulch. 

Crop Maintenance


Apply the following recommended fertilizers at proper time

Age of Trees (Years)

Fertilizer Grades (Per ha per year)


At planting ( 1,000 trees per hectare)

5 bags 14-14-14

Applied at planting hole at the rate of 250 grams per hole mixed with decomposed chicken dung or other organic fertilizer like compost or farm manure

Young trees up to 3 years

4 bags 12-24-12

1 bag Urea (45-0-0)

1 bag Muriate of Potash (0-0-60)

Mixed and applied in 2 equal doses:

1st at the start of rainy season (300g/tree)

2nd before end of rainy season (300 g/tree)

Over 3 years

10 bags 14-14-14

1 bag Urea 1 bag Muriate of Potash Mixed and applied in 2 equal doses:

1st at the start of rainy season (300 g/tree)

2nd before end of rainyseason (300 g/tree)

Methods of Application 

  1. When the land is level and tree canopy is not overlapped, spread the recommended fertilizer in a narrow band around the tree directly beneath the canopy. 
  2. If the tree canopies are overlapping, the root system is also interlocking. The fertilizer should be evenly broadcasted both between the trees in the row and between trees between rows, depending on the planting pattern. 
  3. Deep placement in undulating terrain is recommended to reduce nutrient losses through run-off. 
  4. In weedy plantations, ring weeding should be done prior to fertilizer application to prevent nutrient competition with weeds. 
  5. If irrigation system is available, the recommended Nitrogen and Potash may be fertigated. 


Pruning allows sunlight to penetrate the crown of the growing trees. Practice pruning to remove diseased branches, for uniform branching and enhance fruiting. 

After harvesting during dry season, prune mature trees of unhealthy twigs and chupons (tender, succulent vertical branch/shoots.). 

Top pruning of the highest branches (up to four meters) to keep the tree short for easy harvesting and maintenance. 

After pruning, apply coal tar or white lead paint on cut surface to avoid entrance of organisms and rotting of cut branches. 

After pruning, apply the recommended fertilizer.

Rehabilitation of Old Cacao Trees by Side Grafting 

Rehabilitation can be carried out by removal or replacement of existing unproductive trees through side grafting or bark grafting. In side grafting, use scions from high yielding plants to side graft unproductive trees in the plantation. 

Steps in Side Grafting:

  1. Prepare budsticks from superior trees. (National Seed Industry Council registered variety)  
  2. Make horizontal deep cut on the main trunk of unproductive trees. The cut should be through the bark to the white wood inside. 
  3. Make two cuts downward from the horizontal cut. 
  4. Create window by peeling the bark neatly downward to reveal the white sapwood (cambium) inside. 
  5. Insert budstick into the window. Close window and tie with straw. Cover with plastic bag. Remove plastic bag after one month.
  6. Repeat the same step with the 2nd and 3rd cuts. Each tree should have three grafts at 30 cm apart. 
  7. Cut the main tree with chain saw at least one foot above the grafts in a slanting manner. 
  8. Apply coal tar or paint on the cut portion. 
  9. Ringweed the stump one foot around and apply organic fertilizer. 
  10. Monitor and control pests and diseases regularly.

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