Erythrina, or mountain immortelle (Erythrina poeppigiana), grows extremely widely on Dominican cacao plantations. These large, majestic trees with imposing buttress roots can grow to over 30 metres in height. They are known by Dominicans as Amapolas (poppies) because of their vivid red flowers that brighten up cocoa farms between December and April.
This species is thought by producers to provide the cacao trees with moisture and shade, but it is also a member of the legume family, which takes nitrogen from the air and returns it to the soil, making it more fertile.
In this research programme developed by Cacao Forest, our aim is to quantify the role that Erythrina plays, focusing in particular on any positive and negative effects that this plant has on the growth and productivity of cacao trees. Since March, we have been hosting Charlotte Guichard, a Master’s II student at the University of Montpellier, and Victor M. Gonzalez Fermín, an undergraduate student at Cacao Forest’s partner university UNEV, on a six-month internship. Victor also works as a technician at Rizek Cacao, whose FUPAROCA Foundation has been a Cacao Forest partner since 2021.
The two students are plotting the position of all of the cacao trees, Erythrina and other associated plants on a 1.44-hectare plantation in the province of Duarte. By measuring the distance between each cacao tree and Erythrina, while taking into account other associated crops, we hope to be able to reveal any interaction between them.
Field data collection will be completed in mid-June 2022 and the two students are due to present their findings in September. The results will be made known as soon as possible and will also be published.
We would like to welcome Charlotte and Victor and hope they are enjoying working for the Cacao Forest project.