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Tiny cacao flowers and fickle midges are part of a pollination puzzle that limits chocolate production

By DeWayne Shoemaker, Professor and Department Head, Entomology and Plant Pathology, University of Tennessee
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It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without chocolate. Yet cacao trees, which are the source of chocolate, are vulnerable.

I am a passionate chocolate lover and an entomologist who studies cacao pollination. The crop’s sustainability currently appears to depend on several species of tiny fly pollinators, who are frankly struggling to get the job done.

Thousands of flowers

Chocolate is derived from the seeds of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao L., which literally…

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