Cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) is mainly pollinated by ceratopogonid midges (Forcipomyia spp.). However, other insect species will also pollinate cocoa flowers when these midges are scarce. In Côte d'Ivoire, inadequate pest control practices (insecticide spraying, mostly against the mirids Distantiella theobromae and Sahlbergella singularis) and landscape degradation as a result of deforestation and cocoa monoculture, have decreased overall pollinator population levels and, as a result, pollination services to cocoa trees. The current low average Ivorian cocoa yield of 538 kg per ha (in 2016) is the result of global agricultural mismanagement (deteriorated soils, lack of fertilizers, inadequate or absent pest control, absence of shade trees and intercrops). However, there is also an evidence of a pollination gap that could cause low cocoa yield. More research is needed to understand: (i) which agro-ecological efforts to enhance cocoa pollination can improve yield, and (ii) which strategies are effective in enhancing cocoa pollination. In this chapter, we briefly describe the cocoa sector. Next, the cocoa flower and pollinator biology and phenology are presented, followed by an overview of current environmental and management constraints to cocoa pollination in the context of Côte d'Ivoire, the largest cocoa producer in the world. We conclude with exploring possibilities to enhance pollination in the Ivorian small-scale cocoa sector.
Part of the book: Pollination in Plants