Monday, August 25, 2014

Protecting Grenada's genetic diversity tastes great

This past week we were joined on the farm by leading cocoa experts from the Grenada Cocoa Association.  Together the team grafted 37 cocoa trees with criollo cocoa samples from a genetic preservation nursery near Grenville, Grenada.  We cut small pieces of branches and buds from three different types of criollo trees and transported them to our land to graft onto recently planted young trees.  If the grafts are successful, these trees will start to produce criollo pods from these branches.

Representatives from the Grenada Cocoa Association grafting on our farm

Criollo cocoa is world renowned for having the best flavor. It is very rare because it does not have the pest resistance or high yield of more hearty varieties.  Often compared to the superior Arabica coffee beans, it is well known for having complex caramel, nut, vanilla and tobacco flavor notes.  We didn’t believe our Jouvay chocolate could get any better, but we’re taking on the challenge to care for these rare trees to increase flavor bean production, and protect the genetic diversity of Grenada’s cocoa heritage.  Many farmers who rely on cocoa for their income are simply not able to take the risk with criollo trees and typically use crossbreeds, making criollo beans less than 1% of the world’s cocoa supply.  We are happy to have the opportunity to continue to preserve these beans, and think our chocolate customers will be happy too!

Scions need to be kept moist and clean to prevent drying and bacteria

Based on the size of the small trees, we focused on top grafts.  We also did a few bud and side grafts, as well as experiment with grafting on mature trees that are no longer producing as much.  As mentioned, grafting is a very delicate art, and grafting out in the field adds to the risks. Everything must be properly sanitized and done quickly so as not to introduce any bacteria to the cocoa plants. 

Taping a top graft to ensure key pieces connect and to prevent moisture and bacteria from entering

In two weeks we will remove the plastic bags (which keep moisture out and protect the graft from harsh weather).  In two more weeks, we will remove the tape and continue to monitor our trees to make sure they survive.

Completed top-graft using ICS 32, the purest variety of criollo in Grenada.
Check out our Facebook page to watch cocoa extension officer, Kelwin Noel demonstrate a top-graft:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the excellent and informative posts and photos this month.

    Keep up the good work.