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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


Agroforestry Pruning Light Cocoa Throughfall Bolivia 



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.


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.


  1. Abou Rajab Y, Leuschner C, Barus H, Tjoa A, Hertel D (2016) Cacao cultivation under diverse shade tree cover allows high carbon storage and sequestration without yield losses. PLoS One 11:e0149949. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Adjaloo MK, Oduro W, Banful BK (2012) Floral phenology of upper Amazon cocoa trees: implications for reproduction and roductivity of cocoa. ISRN Agronomy 2012:1–8. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ahenkorah Y, Akrofi GS, Adri AK (1974) The end of the first cacao shade and manurial experiment at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana. J Hortic Sci 49:43–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Allen RG, Pereira LS, Raes D, Smith M (1998) Crop evapotranspiration - Guidelines forcomputing crop water requirements -FAO Irrigation and drainage paper 56, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  5. Andres C, Comoé H, Beerli A, Schneider M, Rist S, Jacobi J (2016) Cocoa in monoculture and dynamic agroforestry. In: Lichtfouse E (ed) Sustainable agriculture reviews, vol 19. Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp 121–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Armengot L, Andres C, Milz J, Schneider M (2016) Cacao agroforestry systems have higher return on labor compared to full-sun monocultures. Agron Sustain Dev 36:1. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Balasimha D, Daniel EV, Bhat PG (1991) Influence of environmental factors on photosynthesisin cocoa trees. Agric For Meteorol 55:15–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baligar VC, Bunce JA, Machado RCR, Elson MK (2008) Photosynthetic photon flux density, carbon dioxide concentration, and vapor pressure deficit effects on photosynthesis in cacao seedlings. Photosynthetica 46:216–221. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beer J, Muschler R, Kass D, Somarriba E (1998) Shade management in coffee and cacao plantations. Agrofor Syst 139–164Google Scholar
  10. Calheiros de Miranda RA (1994) Partitioning of rainfall in a cocoa (Theobroma cacao Lour.) plantation. Hydrol Process 351–358Google Scholar
  11. Canty A, Ripley B (2015) boot: Bootstrap R (S-Plus) functionsGoogle Scholar
  12. Carr MKV, Lockwood G (2011) The water relations and irrigation requirements of cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.): a review. Ex Agric 47:653–676. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cattan P, Bussière F, Nouvellon A (2007) Evidence of large rainfall partitioning patterns by banana and impact on surface runoff generation. Hydrol Process 21:2196–2205. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clough Y, Barkmann J, Juhrbandt J, Kessler M, Wanger TC, Anshary A, Buchori D, Cicuzza D, Darras K, Putra DD, Erasmi S, Pitopang R, Schmidt C, Schulze CH, Seidel D, Steffan-Dewenter I, Stenchly K, Vidal S, Weist M, Wielgoss AC, Tscharntke T (2011) Combining high biodiversity with high yields in tropical agroforests. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108:8311–8316. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Crockford RH, Richardson DP (2000) Partitioning of rainfall into throughfall, stemflow and interception: effect of forest type, ground cover and climate. Hydrol Process 2903–2920CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Daymond AJ, Hadley P (2008) Differential effects of temperature on fruit development and bean quality of contrasting genotypes of cacao (Theobroma cacao). Ann Appl Biol 153:175–185. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Decagon (2013) AccuPAR PAR/LAI Ceptometer Model LP-80. Operator’s Manual. Decagon Devices, Inc., Pullman, WA Version: December 13, 2013, 08:29:36Google Scholar
  18. Denslow JS (1987) Tropical rainforest gaps and tree species diversity. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 18:431–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dietz J, Hölscher D, Leuschner C, Hendrayanto H (2006) Rainfall partitioning in relation to forest structure in differently managed montane forest stands in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. For Ecol Manag 237:170–178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Elbers J (2002) Agrarkolonisation im Alto Beni: Landschafts- und politisch-ökologische Entwicklungsforschungin einem Kolonisationsgebiet in den Tropen Boliviens. Inaugural - Dissertation, Heinrich-Heine-Universität DüsseldorfGoogle Scholar
  21. Frazer GW, Canham CD, Lertzman KP (1999) Gap Light Analyzer (GLA), Version 2.0: imaging software to extract canopy structure and gap light transmission indices from true-colour fisheye photographs, users manual and program documentation. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, and the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, and the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Gaitán L, Armbrecht I, Graefe S (2016) Throughfall and soil properties in shaded and unshaded coffee plantations and a secondary forest: a case study from southern Colombia. JARTS 117:309–321Google Scholar
  23. Jacobi J, Andres C, Schneider M, Pillco M, Calizaya P, Rist S (2014) Carbon stocks, tree diversity, and the role of organic certification in different cocoa production systems in Alto Beni, Bolivia. Agrofor Syst 88:1117–1132. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jacobi J, Schneider M, Bottazzi P, Pillco M, Calizaya P, Rist S (2015) Agroecosystem resilience and farmers’ perceptions of climate change impacts on cocoa farms in Alto Beni, Bolivia. Renew Agric Food Syst 30:170–183. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Köhler M, Schwendenmann L, Hölscher D (2010) Throughfall reduction in a cacao agroforest: tree water use and soil water budgeting. Agric For Meteorol 150:1079–1089. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Köhler M, Hanf A, Barus H, Hölscher D (2014) Cacao trees under different shade tree shelter: effects on water use. Agrofor Syst 88:63–73. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kuznetsova A, Brockhoff PB, Bojesen Christensen RH (2016) lmerTest: tests in linear mixed effects models, Vienna, Austria.
  28. Läderach P, Martinez-Valle A, Schroth G, Castro N (2013) Predicting the future climatic suitability for cocoa farming of the world’s leading producer countries, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Clim Chang 119:841–854. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lin BB (2007) Agroforestry management as an adaptive strategy against potential microclimate extremes in coffee agriculture. Agric For Meteorol 85–94. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lin BB (2010) The role of agroforestry in reducing water loss through soil evaporation and crop transpiration in coffee agroecosystems. Agric For Meteorol 510–518. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lin BB, Perfecto I, Vandermeer J (2008) Synergies between agricultural intensification and climate change could create surprising vulnerabilities for crops. Bioscience 58:847–854. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Martius C, Höfer H, Garcia MVB, Römbke J (2004) Microclimate in agroforestry systems in central Amazonia: does canopy closure matter to soil organisms? Agroforest Syst 291–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McLeod AI (2011) Kendall: Kendall rank correlation and Mann-Kendall trend test.
  34. Niether W, Schneidewind U, Armengot L, Adamtey N, Schneider M, Gerold G (2017) Spatial-temporal soil moisture dynamics under different cocoa production systems. Catena 158:340–349. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Niether W, Armengot L, Andres C, Schneider M, Gerold G (2018) Microclimate in cocoa production systems Data. V1. Zenodo [Dataset].
  36. Perfecto I, Vandermeer J, Mas A, Pinto LS (2005) Biodiversity, yield, and shade coffee certification. Ecol Econ 54:435–446. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. R Core Team (2016) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna Google Scholar
  38. Reich PB, Borchert R (1984) Water stress and tree physiology on a tropical dry forest in the lowlands of Costa Rica. J Ecol 72:61–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rice RA, Greenberg R (2000) Cacao cultivation and the conservation of biological diversity. Ambio 29:167–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schneider M, Andres C, Trujillo G, Alcon F, Amurrio P, Perez E, Weibel F, Milz J (2017) Cocoa and total system yields of organic and conventional agroforestry vs. monoculture systems in a long-term field trial in Bolivia. Ex Agric 53:351–374. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schroth G, Krauss U, Gasparotto L, Duarte Aguilar JA, Vohland K (2000) Pests and diseases in agroforestry systems of the humid tropics. Agrofor Syst 199–241Google Scholar
  42. Schroth G, Lehmann J, Rodrigues MRL, Barros E, Macêdo JLV (2001) Plant-soil interactions in multistrata agroforestry in the humid tropics. Agrofor Syst 53:85–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schroth G, Fonseca GAB, Harvey CA, Gascon C, Vasconcelos H, Izac AMN (eds) (2004) Agroforestry and biodiversity conservation in tropical landscapes. Island Press, Washington D.CGoogle Scholar
  44. Schroth G, Jeusset A, da Silva Gomes A, Taveres Florence C, Pinto Coelho NA, Faria D, Läderach P (2016) Climate friendliness of cocoa agroforests is compatible with productivity increase. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 67–80. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Seiler C, Hutjes RWA, Kabat P (2013a) Climate variability and trends in Bolivia. J Appl Meteor Climatol 52:130–146. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Seiler C, Hutjes RWA, Kabat P (2013b) Likely ranges of climate change in Bolivia. J Appl Meteor Climatol 52:1303–1317. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. SENAMHI (2015) SISMET-Base de datos. Accessed 20 March 2017
  48. Siles P, Harmand J, Vaast P (2010a) Effects of Inga densiflora on the microclimate of coffee (Coffea arabica L.) and overall biomass under optimal growing conditions in Costa Rica. Agrofor Syst 78:269–286. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Siles P, Vaast P, Dreyer E, Harmand JM (2010b) Rainfall partitioning into throughfall, stemflow and interception loss in a coffee (Coffea arabica L.) monoculture compared to an agroforestry system with Inga densiflora. J Hydrol 39–48. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Somarriba E, Cerda R, Orozco L, Cifuentes M, Dávila H, Espin T, Mavisoy H, Ávila G, Alvarado E, Poveda V, Astorga C, Say E, Deheuvels O (2013) Carbon stocks and cocoa yields in agroforestry systems of Central America. Agric Ecosyst Environ 46–57. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sposito TC, Santos FAM (2001) Scaling of stem and crown in eight Cocropia (Cecropicaceae) species of Brazil. Am J Bot 88:939–949CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Tscharntke T, Clough Y, Bhagwat SA, Buchori D, Faust H, Hertel D, Hölscher D, Juhrbandt J, Kessler M, Perfecto I, Scherber C, Schroth G, Veldkamp E, Wanger TC (2011) Multifunctional shade-tree management in tropical agroforestry landscapes—a review. J Appl Ecol 48:619–629. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Unece (2010) Manual on methods and criteria for harmonized sampling, assessment, monitoring and analysis of the effects of air pollution on forests: Part XIV - Sampling and Analysis of DepositionGoogle Scholar
  54. Vaast P, Somarriba E (2014) Trade-offs between crop intensification and ecosystem services: the role of agroforestry in cocoa cultivation. Agrofor Syst 88:947–956. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. van Kanten R, Vaast P (2006) Transpiration of Arabica coffee and associated shade tree species in sub-optimal, low-altitude conditions of Costa Rica. Agrofor Syst 187–202. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wickham H (2009) ggplot2: elegant graphics for data analysis. Use R. Springer-Verlag New York, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  57. Wickham H (2011) The split-apply-combine strategy for data analysis. J Stat Softw 40:1–29Google Scholar
  58. Wood GAR, Lass RA (2001) Cocoa, 4th ed. Tropical agriculture series. Blackwell Science, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  59. Zuidema PA, Leffelaar PA, Gerritsma W, Mommer L, Anten NP (2005) A physiological production model for cocoa (Theobroma cacao): model presentation, validation and application. Agric Syst 84:195–225. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations