As I’m sure all of you know, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. In preparation for this holiday, Americans buy 58 million pounds of chocolate! And that is only a small fraction of the 3 billion pounds of chocolate per year that we consume. However, with current agricultural practices, demand will likely be greater than the supply in a few decades.
Chocolate is produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree, which is cultivated on farms in Africa, Oceania, and South America. Cacao is almost always grown as a monoculture, or a single crop grown over a wide area. This is a problem, because monocultures are highly susceptible to quick-spreading diseases. Since they are grown in larger fields, it gives pests and weeds a larger target to invade. Also, it means that farmers have to clear huge portions of old-growth forests to make room for their crops.
To save the cacao crops, more sustainable agriculture practices must be implemented. The best solution would be to grow it in a way that is similar to its natural environment: smaller plots, with various other crops scattered between them. Ecological stability results in a higher crop yield, and a higher crop yield means more chocolate per mile of farmland, ensuring that Valentine’s Days will be sweet for years to come.
Posted by Erica Fitzpatrick (1)