Project properties

Title The relations between soil health and food safety in cacao production systems of South America
Group Soil Biology
Project type thesis
Credits 24-39
Supervisor(s) Mirjam Pulleman, Marie Zwetsloot
Examiner(s) prof.dr. Rachel Creamer
Contact info marie.zwetsloot@wur.nl or mirjam.pulleman@wur.nl

Begin date 2020/01/01
End date
Description Cacao production in South America is strongly promoted and linked to important environmental and rural development goals. Cacao is mostly produced by smallholder farmers. However, important challenges to enhance profitability include low yields, low climate resilience, as well as new EU food safety regulation setting limits to cadmium levels in chocolate products sold in the EU market. This thesis topic focuses on important knowledge gaps that need to be solved to develop integrated management recommendations for cacao production systems. Thesis projects can be developed to test the hypothesis that the appropriate use of shade trees and/or soil fertility management practices can create i) improved soil health (including appropriate soil organic matter levels, balanced nutrient availability and soil biodiversity); ii) positively affect cacao yields and iii) reduce cadmium uptake by cacao trees. A number of field trials have been implemented in Ecuador and Colombia that provide a suitable settings to study such agroecological relationships through a combination of field work and laboratory measurements. The research will require the student to work in the field and laboratory in one of the two South American countries. Local supervision will be available.
Used skills Literature review, writing proposal and thesis, field sampling and field measurements, chemical and biological laboratory analysis, data processing and statistics. Presentation skills
Requirements Required courses for MSc thesis Soil Biology