The Role of Boron in Sustainable Intensification of Smallholder Cacao Systems in Sulawesi, Indonesia

We implement a project that adds value and strengthens activities of IPNI, Cocoa Care and fertilizer industry partners in sustainable intensification of cacao production systems. Specifically, we execute a three (3) year project to support cacao on farm research and market development on Boron (B) commencing in August 2016, in Soppeng, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The project will help quantifying the effectiveness of balanced fertilizer applications that include B to increase cocoa farm productivity, improve cacao bean quality and increase cacao farm income in a typical Indonesian small-holder cacao farming system, and develop a model for rapid up-scaling of the findings to other cacao growers. The results will strengthen an existing IPNI Cocoa Care project with smallholder cacao farmers in South Sulawesi.


02 Jun 2018

2017 Annual Interpretive Summary

The overall purpose of this project is to strengthen and add additional value related to the micronutrient boron (B) in the current efforts on sustainable intensification of cacao production systems. This was aimed at increasing the yield and profitability of smallholder cacao farms in Indonesia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The provided resources would enable the generation of B nutrition information and knowledge dissemination processes that help farmers and the fertilizer industry to benefit from the strong markets for cocoa. It would also facilitate effective agronomic nutrient management in intensive cacao smallholder production systems through the development and deployment of 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices related to B. The project commenced in September 2016 and will run until August 2019. Importantly, the project will demonstrate to farmers the benefits of good agricultural practices, including fertilization with B, and thereby provide motivation to growers for management change.

The project supported on-farm trials that included B nutrition with 15 smallholder cacao farmers in the Soppeng/Bone area. Smallholders were identified and integrated into ongoing IPNI Cocoa Care work. Where necessary, dead or non-productive cacao trees in the selected farms were rehabilitated or replaced with the best available planting materials. These 15 cacao farmers were trained both “in class” and “in field” on how to implement good agricultural practices on their farms for maximum productivity at the Mars Cocoa Academy. Baseline soil, leaf, and fruit sampling was undertaken within the farms to establish nutritional and soil needs. The concept of 4R Nutrient Stewardship was used to implement the nutrition program. There were three treatments: 1) general good agricultural management practices, with no fertilizer applications (GAP only); 2) good agricultural management practices, plus B-containing fertilizer applications (GAP fertilizer + B); 3) good agricultural management practices, with no B-containing fertilizer applications (GAP fertilizer without B).

The first application of fertilizers was completed according to plan. A preliminary data analysis of the 2017 yield and bean quality has not yet produced statistically significant findings but it indicated clear trends that we will consolidate with the 2018 data. These trends showed that: 1) the overall yields are generally still low; 2) there is currently a large yield variability between farms; 3) the benefit of B seems larger in well-managed farms; 4) in more than half of the farms, B treatment yielded the highest; and 5) bean size was largest in the B treatment in more than half of the farms.