Cocoa is raised from seed. Seeds will germinate and produce good plants when taken from pods not more than 15 days underripe.
Vegetative propagation can also be used to create clones. Vegetative propagation can be by cuttings, budding or marcotting.
Cuttings - Tree cuttings are taken with between two and five leaves and one or two buds. The leaves are cut in half and the cutting placed in a pot under polythene until roots begin to grow.
Budding - A bud is cut from a tree and placed under a flap of bark on another tree. The budding patch is then bound with raffia, waxed tape of clear plastic to prevent moisture loss. When the bud is growing the old tree above it is cut down.
Marcotting - A strip of bark is removed from a branch and the area covered in sawdust and a polythene sheet. The area will produce roots and the branch can then be chopped off and planted.
In vitro propagation is not generally used for cocoa, but research is taking place on the subject to find easier in vitro methods of producing clones. Adu-Ampomah et al managed to produce somatic embryoids from cotyledons and developed a method for their development into plantlets. Somatic embryogenesis is a process by which somatic cells undergo bipolar development to give rise to genetically identical whole plants by means of the development of adventitious embryos that occur without the fusion of gametes. The development of somatic embryogenesis systems of cocoa trees has opened a new avenue for vegetative propagation. Scientists in a Penn State research programme funded by the American Cocoa Research Institute have been researching the method and a field test comparing in vitro cloned cocoa plants with seed grown and grafted plants is to take place at the Union Vale Estate on the island of Saint Lucia in the West Indies. The ForBio Group of companies is researching the propagation of cocoa plants using tissue culture and/or robotic assisted micropropagation technology.
Willson K.C. Coffee, Cocoa and Tea. Crop Production Science in Horticulture 8. CABI Publishing, 1999
Guiltinan, M.J., Li, Z., Traore, A., Maximova, S., Pishak, S. High efficiency somatic embryogenesis and genetic transformation of cacao. INGENIC News letter, (3): 7-8, October 1997
Penn State uses cloning technology to improve cocoa plants. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, 3pp, 4 May 1998
The application of biotechnology to cacao. A presentation to the ICCO by ForBio Tropical Plants. ForBio Tropical Plants, 5pp, September 1998
Adu-Ampomah Y., Novak F., Afza R. and van Durren M. Embroid and plant production from cultured cocoa explants. Proceedings of the Tenth International Cocoa Research Conference, Santo Domingo, May 1987, pp129-136