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Environmental Growing Conditions in Five Production Systems Induce Stress Response and Affect Chemical Composition of Cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) Beans

Niether, Wiebke, Smit, Inga, Armengot, Laura, Schneider, Monika, Gerold, Gerhard, Pawelzik, Elke
Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 2017 v.65 no.47 pp. 10165-10173
Theobroma cacao, abiotic stress, agroforestry, cocoa beans, copper, dry season, environmental factors, harvest date, humid tropics, iron, leaf area index, magnesium, manganese, nitrogen content, sodium, spermine, stress response, understory, zinc
Cocoa beans are produced all across the humid tropics under different environmental conditions provided by the region but also by the season and the type of production system. Agroforestry systems compared to monocultures buffer climate extremes and therefore provide a less stressful environment for the understory cocoa, especially under seasonally varying conditions. We measured the element concentration as well as abiotic stress indicators (polyamines and total phenolic content) in beans derived from five different production systems comparing monocultures and agroforestry systems and from two harvesting seasons. Concentrations of N, Mg, S, Fe, Mn, Na, and Zn were higher in beans produced in agroforestry systems with high stem density and leaf area index. In the dry season, the N, Fe, and Cu concentration of the beans increased. The total phenolic content increased with proceeding of the dry season while other abiotic stress indicators like spermine decreased, implying an effect of the water availability on the chemical composition of the beans. Agroforestry systems did not buffer the variability of stress indicators over the seasons compared to monocultures. The effect of environmental growing conditions on bean chemical composition was not strong but can contribute to variations in cocoa bean quality.