How nutrient rich are decaying cocoa pod husks? The kinetics of nutrient leaching

D.G.J.M. Hougni*, A.G.T. Schut, L.S. Woittiez, B. Vanlauwe, K.E. Giller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aim: Recycling of cocoa pod husks has potential to contribute to mineral nutrition of cocoa. Yet little is known of the nutrient content and nutrient release patterns from the husks. The potassium (K) rich husks are usually left in heaps in cocoa plantations in Africa. We aimed to understand and quantify release patterns of K and other nutrients from husks under varying rainfall regimes and assessed the effects of partial decomposition and inundation on nutrient leaching rates. Methods: We incubated chunks of cocoa pod husks to assess decomposition rates and we measured nutrient leaching rates from two sets of husk chunks: one set was placed in tubes that were submitted to simulated scheduled rainfall events while the second set was continuously inundated in beakers. Results: Decomposition of husks followed a second-order exponential curve (k: 0.09 day−1; ageing constant: 0.43). Nutrient losses recorded within 25 days were larger and more variable for K (33%) than for other macronutrients released in this order: Mg > Ca ≈ P > N (less than 15%). Potassium leaching was mainly driven by rainfall frequency (P < 0.05) and reinforced by intense rainfall, especially at lower frequency. Under water-saturated conditions, 11% of K was leached out within 48 h from fresh husks compared with 92% from partially decayed husks. Conclusion: Some initial decomposition of cocoa pod husks is required to expose K to intense leaching. As decomposition progresses, abundant K losses are to be expected under frequent and/or intense rainfall events.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPlant and Soil
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Mar 2021


  • Cocoa pod husks
  • Farmer practices
  • Leaching tubes
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Potassium

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