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Shade trees and tree pruning alter throughfall and microclimate in cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) production systems

  • Wiebke Niether
  • Laura Armengot
  • Christian Andres
  • Monika Schneider
  • Gerhard Gerold
Original Paper

Abstract

Key message

Shade trees in agroforestry systems protect the understory cocoa from climate extremes. Shade tree pruning manages microclimatic conditions in favor of cocoa production while tree diversity is maintained. Adaptation of pruning has to consider seasonal changes in temperature and precipitation to protect the understory cocoa.

Context

Structural characteristics of tree stands such as species diversity, tree density, and stratification can affect throughfall and microclimate. Pruning changes the canopy and may therefore modulate internal conditions.

Aims

The aim of this study is to assess the environmental growing conditions of cocoa trees.

Methods

We monitored canopy openness and the impact of stand structure on throughfall and microclimate in three cocoa production systems (monoculture, agroforestry, and successional agroforestry) and a natural regrowth in a long-term trial in Bolivia from 2013 to 2015. We further focused on the effect of annual shade tree and cocoa pruning on these variables to evaluate the potential impact of this activity.

Results

Agroforestry systems buffered extreme climate events like temperature fluctuations compared to monocultures but reduced light and throughfall drastically. Spatial variability of throughfall and transmitted light were low under a high and closed shade tree canopy. Shade tree pruning resulted in higher canopy openness, light transmittance, and throughfall, while the buffer function of the agroforestry systems concerning temperature and humidity fluctuations was reduced.

Conclusion

Differences between cocoa production systems regarding throughfall and microclimate were overlain by pruning activities. Cocoa agroforestry systems are temporal dynamic systems. Pruning timing and intensity is pivotal for balancing light and water availability under seasonally varying environmental conditions to conserve micro-environments for cocoa production with less exposure to unfavorable climate.

Keywords

Agroforestry Pruning Light Cocoa Throughfall Bolivia 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Many thanks are regarded to the Ecotop-team in Sara Ana and the Institute of Ecology, University Mayor San Andres (UMSA), Bolivia, for technical and logistical support. We are grateful for the comments of the reviewers that helped us to improve the manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded by a grant from Johannes-Hübner-Stiftung, Giessen, Germany, with special support by Mrs. O. Riedl-Hübner. Study plots and field assistants were provided by FiBL, Switzerland, with fundings from Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Coop Sustainability Fund, Liechtenstein Development Service (LED), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Declaration of ethical issues

The manuscript was not published before and is not under consideration elsewhere.

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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of GeographyUniversity of GoettingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Deparment of International CooperationForschungsinstitut für Biologischen Landbau (FiBL)FrickSwitzerland

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