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How Pollination Affects Chocolate Production

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It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without chocolate. Yet cacao trees, which are the source of chocolate, are vulnerable.

I am a passionate chocolate lover and an entomologist who studies cacao pollination. The crop’s sustainability currently appears to depend on several species of tiny fly pollinators, who are frankly struggling to get the job done.

Thousands of flowers

Chocolate is derived from the seeds of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao L., which literally means “food of the gods.” The plant originated in the Western Amazon region of South America and has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years in many parts of Central and South America. Today it’s grown in equatorial regions around the world, including western Africa and several tropical regions in Asia.

These flowers are tiny, only a half inch or so in diameter (1-2 cm). The flowers typically grow in clusters directly from the trunk of the tree or off large branches.

Each flower requires pollination to successfully produce a nearly football-sized fruit – a pod containing 30-60 seeds, which…



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