Good Cocoa Nursery Establishment and Management

The success of a cocoa farm to a larger extent will depend on a good planting material. You can grow your cocoa farm from the seed (directly) or seedling. We recommend you do it with the cocoa seedlings from a good cocoa nursery establishment.

What is a cocoa nursery?

Cocoa nursery is where you raise cocoa seedlings for transplanting to the field at the appropriate time. The work on cocoa nursery should start somewhere between November and December. This timing will help you meet the rains at time of transplanting to the field.

Site selection for cocoa nursery establishment

Make the following considerations when you are thinking of a place to establish your nursery.

  1. Water. The nursery will require water and especially at the period you will be doing it. So make sure there is available and accessible water source.
  2. Select a flat land, preferably close to the farm on which they will be transplanted.
  3. The soil must have good drainage. Water-logging is not good for your nursery.
  4. The site for your nursery should be away (about 10meters) from the nearest cocoa farm. Pest from these cocoa farms can also attack the seedlings.
  5. Some shady trees my pose a problem for the nursery and may even promote the infection of Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD).

Land preparation and shading of the cocoa nursery site

You must weed and clear the site of all obstacles that will impede work in the nursery.

Cocoa nursery establishment requires that you erect a temporal shade with shade nets or palm fronds. This is to protect the seedlings from direct sunlight. Raise the shade about 2meters above the ground.

If there are livestock around that could pose threat to the seedlings, fence it.

Nursing the cocoa

You can raise the cocoa seedling in;

  1. Pots / Polythene bags
  2. Seed bed
Raising cocoa seedlings in pots/polythene bags

1. Get your polythene bags

a. If you are nursing the cocoa for a shorter period, say 3months, the bags can be smaller in size (about 12.5 cm x 25 cm)
b. If you are nursing for up to 6 months use a much bigger polythene bag (18cm x 25cm)

2. Create drainage holes at the bottom of the polythene bags. This will allow excess water to drain off and prevent logging.

3. The you fill poly bags with soil to the brim. Use soils with good aeration, water retention and high in organic matter.

4. For easy management, arrange the bags in block. Let each row have 10bags wide and 100bags longs. That will be 1000bags per block.

5. To make movement easy through the blocks, leave a gap of about 45-60cm. This will be used as path during the various operations on the nursery.

6. Water the soil in the bags before sowing the cocoa beans.

7. Sow the bean at a depth of 2cm with pointed side of the bean upward. If you are not sure, place it flat at the same depth. Avoid seeds that are already germinating.

8. Monitor germination and growth.

Cocoa nursery establishment on nursery beds

1. Weed and clear the area of all plant debris.

2. Prepare your bed of about 12.5cm high and 120cm wide. The length could go as you want. However, leave a gap of about 45-60cm to serve a path. This will help avoid stepping on the bed and compacting it during various operations in the nursery.

3. Level the top of the beds and create grooves 20cm apart on the entire bed.

4. Now, place the cocoa beans in the grooves 10cm apart.

5. Provide shade as it is done in the polythene bags method.

Note: Do not keep seedlings for more than 4months before transplanting when you raise them on beds.

How to maintain the cocoa nursery

After germination, watering should be done in the morning and evening when it is not raining. This will not be the case in the rainy season. Water as and when it is required. Too much watering can cause damping-off.

Control weeds regularly on polythene bags or nursery bed by hand.

Applying fertilizer or manure

Little or no fertilization may be needed if good soils are used in the cocoa nursery establishment.

However, if they are lacking in nutrients you can apply the recommended rate of fertilizer a month after germination. Be careful, if granules are used they don’t fall on the leaves. They can scorch the leaves. Water well so that the granular fertilizer can dissolve for the roots to use.

Controlling pest and disease

Use recommended fungicides and insecticides to control pests and diseases.

Do not apply those chemicals with knapsack sprayers used for applying herbicides.

Hardening the seedlings

Hardening helps to prepare the seedlings for transplant to their permanent field.

This is done by reducing the shade gradually a month before transplanting. The shade is then removed completely a week to transplanting.

At this stage, reduce watering and do not apply fertilizer.

How to transport seedlings from nursery to the field

This is a critical stage after the cocoa nursery establishment. The seedlings if not well handled can be damaged during transporting.

Do not overcrowd the seedlings. Carry just as much as the space available.

Records keeping on cocoa nursery establishment.

This activity should be done at the beginning, during and at the end of the nursery establishment. Keep records on everything including the source and quantity of materials used, the number of seeds planted, the number of seeds germinated, etc.

7 Tips on Profitable Farming with Good Records Keeping

Farming is a business and so farmers must treat it as such. This starts with proper planning and diligent execution of all on-farm and off-farm activities. If you intend to make farming your business then keeping records is a very important activity to note. Tracking your income and expenditure, weather trends, the efficacy of applications and treatments on the farm, efficiencies of various technologies, among others, can determine your success or otherwise in farming. You cannot ignore records keeping from your daily chores on the farm.

We have elaborated various tips that can help you in good records keeping on your farms for a very successful farming business.

1. Have a long-term vision

This is for those who have decided to be in farming for a long time. It is important to have a clear picture of where you want to be, as a farmer. A vision, as in any business, will be your long-term guide and motivation. Whenever you pause to ponder over your farms, your vision is what you weigh against progress to see if you are on the path to achieving what you envision. Altogether, your records will be a vital guide.

2. Set goals for your farms

Now, break long-term vision into short-term goals. Do not be too ambitious. Keeping records of various activities will help you track progress. Make sure the goals you set are in line with your vision and set up activities that can address the goals. Think of your resources and which farming enterprise to start with, in which season. Decide how to use your capital and how you intend to generate profit. With your knowledge of records keeping, you will steadily get to your vision.

3. Track money coming in and going out

It is very important for farmers to track their income and expenditure. Keep all your invoices, receipts and all documents on income and expenditure on your farm. Moreover, keep a journal to record all the monies spent especially on labour. Where there are more that one enterprise, you may keep records separately to be able to track progress on each enterprise. Do not forget to record dates of various transactions. Your records will tell you, which months have the highest demands for money.

4. Learn from your data

The records you have kept will be your greatest tool moving forward to achieving your goals and ultimately your vision. From the records, you can compare the cost of inputs and their efficacies. Moreover, you can know from the data if you are truly making a profit. The data should be able to give you all the vital information you need, to make all the necessary changes or improvements. If you do not find any information you want, that in itself is enough information to know what to add to your records the next time around. If you want to get your records keeping right at the first attempt, we are glad to help.

5. Cost your own labour time and where to use it

We are referring to your labour against hired labour. Most farmers think that their own labour used on the farms are worth no money. However, keeping records of your own labour will help you know how to distribute it to maximise profit. Costing your labour will give you the true picture of the real cost of production in a particular enterprise. Data on your labour will help you decide when or if you need to hire. Besides, it helps to take up other responsibilities in your farming enterprise.

6. Make use available resources

You do not need to be good at maths or an expert accountant to keep good records. In fact, there are lots of resources available that you can use. You can dwell on your personal experience or that of other farmers. Furthermore, you can seek the help of an Extension Agent from the nearest Department of Agriculture. Agrihome offers lots of information on its blog that can help you along the way. Best of all, Agrihome also offers free support all the way through your production on MyFarm Community. Just start your inquiry in any area of choice.

7. Develop successful habits

Keeping good farm records is obviously one of the key habits you need to develop, as well as a focus. With a focus on the set goals and vision, you are always bent on learning from the data and improving. Develop the habit of organising your records very well and making your plans for them. Set times to look at your books. Either weekly, monthly or quarterly. This will help you concentrate on other activities and evaluate your data at other times at specific intervals.