Cacao flower visitation: lowpollen deposition, low fruit set and dominance of herbivores.

Published online
16 Jun 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Ecological Solutions and Evidence

Vansynghel, J. & Ocampo-Ariza, C. & Maas, B. & Martin, E. A. & Thomas, E. & Hanf-Dressler, T. & Schumacher, N. C. & Ulloque-Samatelo, C. & Tscharntke, T. & Steffan-Dewenter, I.
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1. Pollination services of cacao are crucial for global chocolate production, yet remain critically understudied, particularly in regions of origin of the species. Notably, uncertainties remain concerning the identity of cacao pollinators, the influence of landscape (forest distance) andmanagement (shade cover) on flower visitation and the role of pollen deposition in limiting fruit set. 2. Here, we aimed to improve understanding of cacao pollination by studying limiting factors of fruit set in Peru, part of the centre of origin of cacao. Flower visitors were sampled with sticky insect glue in 20 cacao agroforests in two biogeographically distinct regions of Peru, across gradients of shade cover and forest distance. Further, we assessed pollen quantities and compared fruit set between naturally andmanually pollinated flowers. 3. The most abundant flower visitors were aphids, ants and thrips in the north and thrips, midges and parasitoid wasps in the south of Peru.We present some evidence of increasing visitation rates frommedium to high shade (40%-95% canopy closure) in the dry north, and opposite patterns in the semi-humid south, during the wet season. 4. Natural pollination resulted in remarkably low fruit set rates (2%), and very low pollen deposition. After hand pollination, fruit set more than tripled (7%), but was still low.

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