We've made two trips to Marco's this week to collect cacao buds. This is a tricky job as we're trying to match the size of the buds to the size of our little seedlings. Marco's trees aren't labeled, which surprised me, but he says they're a mix, so we'll just go with that. When (& if) we finally get grafted plants into the ground, we don't want to plant all of one variety in one area. They need to cross pollinate. Since our first round of grafting was unsuccessful, we did a second graft on those seedlings. It was a little hard on some to find enough room for the graft, but we managed. All together we grafted 184 plants. This time we followed Marco's advice and cut the branches, then trimed the leaves off and placed the bud stem in newspaper, which we wet before transporting. The leaves need to be trimmed to stop the photo synthesis. (Wow, I'm learning a tiny bit of the terminology). We looked for trees that had lots of flowers and small pods because we're actually cloning the most productive trees.
We've been asked, "why grafting." According to Marco, if we plant the seedlings directly in the ground, it will take 5 - 7 years to start getting pods. By grafting we should cut the time down to 2 1/2 - 3 years. I accepted this, but still didn't understand why. As Rene and I were grafting, of course we talked a lot. This question came up and he finally put the answer in terms that made sense to me. He's wise in Mayan medicine and has worked in several fields, is smart and inquisitive. Anyway, he told me that the bud comes from a fruiting tree so once it takes hold on the rootstock it takes off from the point of the parent tree. It no longer has to wait to reach maturity, it will start producing as soon as the plant reaches a strength to support the fruit. Not technical, but makes sense to me.
We have about 500 more seedlings nearly ready to graft. We'll probably wait a week or two for them to gain a little size and then start again. Our goal is to plant an acre or two, which would be about 600 plants, and then possibly be a nursery to sell to others who don't want to mess with the grafting. Don't blame them as it's a tedious task and the loss along the way is very frustrating. The thing is, Rene and I seem to do fine and enjoy the challenge. Art is frustrated that he isn't able to help with this stage as he has a little tremble in his hand, so he gets to do the toting and fetching. We're all a team.