Improving Fertilizer Recommendations for Cocoa in Ghana Based on Inherent Soil Fertility Characteristics

In Ghana, cocoa has traditionally been grown as a low input crop, which has caused soil fertility deterioration, and thus, the need to integrate fertilizer use into cocoa agricultural practices. However, fertilizers recommended to farmers are general in nature and do not account for specific crop needs and inherent soil fertility conditions. This study evaluates the use of a soil diagnosis model to determine fertilizer recommendations for cocoa based on inherent soil fertility characteristics in the cocoa growing zones of Ghana. The site-specific fertilizer formulations were tested against blanket recommendations (Asaase Wura and Cocofeed) in farmers’ settings from 2009 to 2011. The results showed that DS-formulated site-specific fertilizer performed better than all blanket fertilizers in Western soils especially on the Ferralsols which are very acidic and depleted of base cations. On the other soil conditions, the site-specific formulations were comparable to the blanket formulations. Trend analysis of cocoa response to applied fertilizer suggests that P is a major determinant of cocoa productivity and that P2O5 rates >120 kg ha−1 would be required, when justified economically, for optimal cocoa yield, while potassium could be kept at around 45 kg K2O ha−1. In view of these results, the cocoa fertilizer formulas proposed for western regions of Ghana could be revised according to the DS model recommendations by taking into consideration the optima presented above. For the other cocoa regions, the DS would not be economic and therefore, proposed formulas should keep P2O5 and K2O around the optima above-presented while compensating for nutrients exported by the crop.