In publica commoda

Press release: Increase in cocoa yields through ecological intensification

Nr. 143/2017 - 14.07.2017

Göttingen's agricultural ecologists are proposing measures that aim to increase pollination and fruit set

(pug) Cocoa is one of the world's most widely traded commodities. The optimisation of pollination is an essential factor for increasing yields. However, only around five to ten percent of cocoa flowers are pollinated by natural means. As part of his doctoral thesis, Manuel Toledo-Hernández, an agricultural ecologist at the University of Göttingen, analysed studies on the pollination of cocoa plants from the past 70 years. He has summarized his findings he obtained as well as open research questions and he published his report in the scientific journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.

“It is still unclear which groups or species of tiny insects, such as midges, wasps or flies, play the most important role in the pollination of the cocoa plant," says Toledo-Hernández. "Additionally, it is not clear as to how ants can promote pollination services, or how shade and scatter management can promote yield.” Natural pollination services could possibly be improved by ensuring that nearby stretches of woodland remain untouched and that agro-forestry systems are cultivated to promote biodiversity. Earlier studies have also shown that yield could be doubled through experimental manual pollination. "In future, such an elaborate measure will also need to be taken into consideration," adds Toledo-Hernández.

Toledo-Hernandez is currently working on such research gaps using experimental field research in Indonesia. "Contributing to the optimisation of cocoa pollination and, with that, the yield increase of small-scale farmers in Indonesia, as well as worldwide, is a huge but exciting challenge," emphasises Toledo-Hernández. Dr. Thomas Wanger and Professor Teja Tscharntke, both project supervisors from the Department of Agricultural Ecology, elaborate: “Cocoa pollination is a key factor in boosting yields, and it is astounding to see what little attention has been paid to it in the past. Environmentally friendly management of cocoa plantations should both promote biodiversity and contribute to agronomy.”

Original publication: Manuel Toledo-Hernández, Thomas C. Wanger, Teja Tscharntke (2017): Neglected pollinators: Can enhanced pollination services improve cocoa yields? A review. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 247: 137-148. Doi:

Manuel Toledo-Hernández, Professor Teja Tscharntke
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Department of Crop Sciences – Agrocoelogy Group