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July 21, 2011

Cocoa farmers may boost yields by intercropping

by Bernard Appiah

Growing cocoa with other crops on the same plot boosts the productivity of cocoa farms, compared with growing cocoa alone, a study has found.

The researchers, from the University of Queensland, Australia, say their study is one of the first to quantitatively examine the effects of crop diversity on the efficiency of cocoa farms.

They surveyed more than 300 farmers from three of the six cocoa-growing regions in Ghana - the world's second-largest cocoa producer - and estimated their cocoa output.

"We were able to show statistically that [on average] cocoa farms that have other crops yield more cocoa per hectare than plots with only cocoa," said John Asafu-Adjaye, co-author of the study.

The practice of converting forests into cocoa farms has led many to advocate growing cocoa with other trees - a form of agroforestry - to conserve biodiversity.

But cocoa agroforestry can also benefit farmers by increasing their income, said co-author Adeline Ofori-Bah.

"On average, a ten per cent increase in the production of other crops is associated with a 1.6 per cent decrease in the marginal cost of producing cocoa," the researchers wrote in the journal Ecological Economics last month (15 June).

The study did not look at which species are best to plant alongside cocoa.


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