There are several important empirical questions concerning cacao cultivation that deserve systematic treatment. One of them is the use of shade.
This article documents the results of observations carried out in Ghana “to examine the implications of growing cocoa under different shade regimes provided by forest trees and in full sun on litter fall, decomposition of the litter, soil fertility and cocoa pod development over one year.”
From the point of view of cocoa pod production, full sun led to three times as many large pods as full shade did (97 healthy large pods vs 30 healthy large pods):
The study concluded: “The level of overhead shade provided by forest trees in cocoa farms significantly influences litter fall, decomposition of the litter, soil fertility and development of cocoa pods. Under un-shaded farms, litter fall is very high but the rates of litter decomposition are very slow compared to the shaded farms. Significantly higher nutrients particularly N and P are found in soils under shaded farms than in un-shaded farms probably because of efficient nutrient cycling process in the shaded farms. Incidence of cherelle wilt is higher in un-shaded farms as a result of a likely higher moisture stress due to higher evapo-transpiration and the lower nutrient concentrations in the soils to support the higher crop yield. Shaded cocoa could therefore enhance efficient nutrient cycling processes, improve nutrient status of soils and promote healthy pod development.”
There was no indication that the study included irrigation, fertilization, or wind breaks. Also, the authors did not indicate the age of the trees nor their varieties.