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Samantha Jay Forbes, Guiliana Mustiga, Alberto Romero, Tobin David Northfield, Smilja Lambert and Juan Carlos Motamayor

Artificial pollination management strategies are a potential solution to improving the livelihoods of smallholder cacao farmers by increasing crop productivity in situations when pollination services are limiting. However, field-based research trials evaluating the yield benefits of artificial pollination management strategies within intensified cacao systems are lacking. Thus, in an intensively managed cacao system, we evaluated the effects of artificial pollination condition (i.e., pollen genotype, pollination intensity, and pollination synchrony) on fruit development and yield in three high-yielding cacao clones. Artificial pollination, regardless of intensity, significantly increased fruit set and yield. Pollination synchrony had a significant effect on cherelle survivorship; older cherelles had greater survival rates across all developmental stages than younger cherelles. Yield differed between genotype crosses and varied according to the pollen donor used, highlighting the importance of understanding self- and cross-compatibility when selecting clones for cultivation. Pollination intensity had no significant effect on harvested yield, indicating that more rigorous research is needed to identify the pollination intensity required for optimized yield under artificial pollination conditions. We conclude that strategies to enhance flowering, pollination rates, and pollination synchrony while ensuring adequate tree nutrition may increase productivity in cacao. Future research evaluating numerous cacao clones across multiple years and locations may help us to understand the region-specific effects of intensive management strategies on the long-term sustainability of enhancing cacao tree productivity.

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Edward J. Boza, Juan Carlos Motamayor, Freddy M. Amores, Sergio Cedeño-Amador, Cecile L. Tondo, Donald S. Livingstone III, Raymond J. Schnell and Osman A. Gutiérrez

Cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) is an important cash crop in tropical growing regions of the world and particularly for small cacao farmers. Over the past two decades, ‘CCN 51’ has become one of the most planted cultivars in Ecuador, mainly as a result of its high productivity and disease resistance. Intermixing of Nacional fine flavor Ecuadorian beans with beans of ‘CCN 51’ has become common practice, reducing overall bean quality and decreasing value. The primary goals of this study were to determine the genetic identity, structure, and allelic richness of ‘CCN 51’, its maternal origin and to compare ‘CCN 51’s’ agronomic characteristics against a composite group of Nacional cultivars. To investigate the complex genetic background of this cultivar, 70 simple sequence repeat loci were used. The high heterozygosity observed (56 of 70 loci) for ‘CCN 51’ is not characteristic of traditional Nacional cultivars. Comparison of agronomic characteristics between ‘CCN 51’ and several Nacional cultivars indicates significant differences in cacao dry bean weight, yield potential, production efficiency, percent healthy pods, and witches' broom [Moniliophthora perniciosa (Stahel) Aime & Phillips-Mora] disease incidence. Additionally, physical, chemical, and organoleptic characteristics suggest that ‘CCN 51’ is different from those of Nacional lineage. Based on population structure analysis, the predominant ancestries for ‘CCN 51’ are Iquitos (45.4%), Criollo (22.2%), and Amelonado (21.5%) genetic groups. A lesser proportion of its genome was accounted for by genetic groups Contamana (3.9%), Purús (2.5%), Marañon (2.1%), and Nacional (1.1%) admixtures. Results of phylogenetic analyses using the unweighted pair group method with arithmetic mean yielding high bootstrap values strongly support the relatedness of ‘CCN 51’ with Iquitos, Criollo, and Amelonado genetic groups. Moreover, seven mitochondrial simple sequence repeat loci revealed that ‘CCN 51’ maternally inherited the ‘IMC 67’ cytotype. ‘CCN 51’ constitutes a valuable cacao genetic resource that is currently used not only in its country of origin, but also in many other national breeding and selection programs worldwide.