Performance of novel clonal cacao accessions in Hawaii under sustainable farming conditions

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $20,000.00
Projected End Date: 05/01/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G231-19-W7501
Grant Recipient: Ninole Cacao LLC
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Pierre Broun
Ninole Cacao LLC


  • Additional Plants: cacao


  • Crop Production: cover crops, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    Performance of novel clonal cacao accessions in Hawaii under sustainable farming conditions

    Despite strong demand for cocoa and chocolate of Hawaii origin, cocoa production in Hawaii remains limited to several hundred metric tons produced on a small number of farms (approximately 60 across the different islands).  There is potential for growth and cocoa, much like coffee production, is a potential high-value economic opportunity for farmers in the State.  One of the limitations of cocoa production in Hawaii is the lack of proven, productive planting materials with good resistance to disease.  Farmers usually use trees derived from seed produced on their own farms, without pollination control.  The result is unpredictable: 70-80% of the cocoa is typically produced from 20-30% of the trees, with an undesirable heterogeneity of growth habits.   More sophisticated production systems rely on clones that have been selected for their productivity, resilience and for cocoa quality.  The benefit is higher, more consistent production and higher uniformity in the plantation, resulting in more cost-effective farm management.

    In this project, we propose to test new clones on a 3-acre plot near Ninole.  These clones have recently been introduced by USDA, after years of selection from genetically diverse populations, to combine yield, resistance to disease and cocoa quality.  Ten clones will be compared with locally obtained seedlings.   In order to guarantee the sustainability of the production system, our objective will be to identify a group of 3-4 complementary productive clones, which, used together, will maintain genetic diversity in the orchard, while offering diverse cocoa quality options.   The clones will be grown using sustainable agronomic practices designed to maintain soil fertility and limit waste.

    The work will be supervised by USDA and the trial will be used to build awareness in the farming community through a series of information and training sessions.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Establish an experimental orchard based on clonal cocoa. Our aim is to develop a cost-effective protocol for the development of grafted clonal materials and control seedlings.  This includes comparing direct planting with nursery germination, developing cost effective protection of plantlets against insects, fending off weed competition.  Success measures: rate of survival of seedlings and grafted plantlets, growth rate, plant replacement within a year
    • Compare the performance of clones and seedlings. This will be measured by their rate of development, morphology, flowering time, fruit set, pod index, pod and bean yields, bean size, production per tree, % productive trees, disease tolerance.
    • Develop a sustainable agronomic system to optimize the production of clones and seed-derived trees and minimize the cost of production. Different pruning regimes will be tested for clones and seed-derived controls.  We will compare different ground cover crops and their efficiency vs herbicide treatments.  Success measures, for pruning: productivity, disease incidence and intervention time; for weed control: ground cover index and speed, weed incidence.
    • Raise awareness of the farming community on clonal cocoa management and on new clonal materials introduced by USDA.  This will be done through farm visits and measured through farmer surveys
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.