Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Increase Chocolate Production

Spray the trees for bugs :)
  [vote for,

I just read an article about chocolate (see link). It says that the cacao tree puts out literally thousands of flowers all year long (remember tropical weather is almost always good for growing stuff), but only 50-60 of them are pollinated each year (thus yielding the fruits from which chocolate is derived).

According to the article, the flowers have neither smell nor taste, and so only rarely attract pollinating insects. I find it difficult to believe that nobody out there, growing cacao, has thought to rectify this by spraying the trees every now and then with an appropriate odorant (not necessarily meaning "expensive perfume"). There are plenty of odors that attract bugs, after all! So, spray the trees with the right stuff (that doesn't attract tree-eating bugs), and watch 'em produce hundreds of fruits each year....

If one is worried about how the odorant may affect the chocolate, well, this will depend on the odorant, of course. What about using "odor of clover" --the odor that attracts honeybees?

Vernon, Apr 08 2004

Cacao article http://www.nvogue.c...olate/chocolate.htm
Lots of good stuff here! [Vernon, Oct 21 2004]

chocolate makes happy babies... http://www.canada.c...2-b046-1eff86a4ac2b

MMMMMM Chocolate http://checkoway.com/url/?s=bfa0fbbe

Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate http://www.hwvi.com/facts.cfm
Some facts [dooper, Oct 21 2004]


       That is a good article. +   

       I can't seem to find the sources on the web but it would have been beneficial for all of us if the ancients had thought more like you. According to scripts they had something on the number of 7 different kinds of edible cacaos of which only the brown variety (what they called it) exists today.
sartep, Apr 08 2004

       anything involving chocolate gets a croissant from me.
echo, Apr 08 2004

       The trees probably couldn't handle the increased production rates, but good idea anyway. More chocolate ,that's what we need ! None of this ' World Peace' nonsense. Just distract the warmongers with chocolate. Even the smell of chocolate would do. So simple, and yet so, so pointless...
blueturtle, Apr 08 2004

       Seems to me that moving the addition of sugar a few steps forward in the process might do the trick.
Worldgineer, Apr 08 2004

       Well, lots of people were perfumes based upon flower extracts, but I’ve yet to see anyone enveloped in a swarm of bees because of it.
ldischler, Apr 12 2004

       [ldischler], that is a good point. As it happens, scent is just one factor in attracting bees (they are also sensitive to Ultraviolet light, which many flowers happen to reflect well). I don't know what cacao flowers look like in UV.   

       Also, of course, bees aren't the only pollinating insect. We just need to encourage one of them to do the job. And, since the cacao flower is normally odorless, it seems reasonable that almost any odor would be an improvement, with respect to such encouragement.   

       Finally, note that I only suggested odor of clover because many jars of honey are labeled "clover honey" (implying acres/hectares of clover made available to bees just for honey production). Thus it seems reasonable to me that this odor would not be detrimental to the taste of the chocolate made from cacao pods growing on trees sprayed with that odor.
Vernon, Apr 12 2004

       Poor Bingo, the smart little genetically engineered dog that knew his own fate.
Worldgineer, Apr 12 2004

       Cocoa trees are pollinated by tiny midges, not bees. Perhaps we cannot smell the particular compound that attracts them to the cocoa flowers (which are notoriously hard to pollenate)?
alc, Apr 12 2004

       [alc], I see in the "Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate" link something about the pollination of cacao trees. This link claims that all the flowers get pollinated, unlike the original article I read. This Idea was based on that original article, which indicated that many of the flowers do not get pollinated.   

       Perhaps the problem is that while a bug may fly from flower to flower, it does not necessarily fly from tree to tree. So, since the trees are bisexual, pollen from Tree A MUST reach Tree B for a fruit to grow. If a bug carries pollen only between flowers on Tree A (very likely, with 10,000 flowers!), the flowers might BEGIN to react as if they had been pollinated (that is, additional pollination becomes impossible), but development of fruits from those flowers can't happen.   

       The desired solution, then, becomes that of finding ways to encourage bugs to travel from tree to tree, and not just from flower to flower. Wind machines, anyone (after growing the trees in a long long row!)?
Vernon, Apr 12 2004

       Sounds prohibitively expensive for rainforest cocoa-farmers... They would probably use gasoline generators or compressors to power such a fan... Such a thing might damage the cocoa's delicate flavour
alc, Apr 12 2004

       [alc], you may be thinking about ONE BIG wind machine at the first tree in the row, but that would indeed be prohibitive (not to mention would blow all the flowers off the first many trees, heh!). Something on the order of a large room fan is what I was thinking, every couple of trees, blowing at something of an angle (don't want to chew up the bugs with the fan blades!), and alternately located on sides of the row. (The row of trees might actually zigzag a little, to accommodate the fans blowing bugs from one tree to the next.) Also, I think the fans don't need to be on all the time; maybe a few hours per week. As somebody else posted, if ALL the flowers were to grow into fruits, the trees may not be able to handle the load. But if we could just double or triple production, then that should pay for the cost of the fans.
Vernon, Apr 12 2004

       Think the 10,000 flower figure from HVC for pollination is a typo, should read 1,000 - it says 1,000 flowers are pollinated on a different page on the same site. So basically 10% of all flowers are pollinated, 1% of all flowers produce mature fruit.   

       I.e. room for improvement in both pollination and making the duffers grow bigger.
dooper, Apr 12 2004

       OK, so we spray the trees with odorant to attract more pollinating insects (not just the normal midges), and then use fans to blow them from one tree to the next. :) --That also means we KNOW when the best time is, to run the fans!
Vernon, Apr 12 2004

       This is possible, especially since Cocoa Trees can be grown underground (They are shade trees). However... would the midges take kindly to living underground?
alc, Apr 12 2004


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