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April 13, 2024

Alley Cropping 101

Alley Cropping 101

Coffee and avocados are the perfect pair on the breakfast table, but did you know that they also make a great pair in the field?  

Many growers in warm climates like Southern California are beginning to plant coffee and avocados together in alley cropping systems. 

Alley cropping refers to the agroforestry practice of planting understory crops between rows of trees. In the case of coffee and avocado alley cropping, coffee shrubs are the understory crop that is planted between overstory rows of avocado trees. Planting coffee and avocados together in agroforestry alley cropping systems can be a great way to regeneratively produce these crops. By growing avocados and coffee together in one integrated system, growers can maximize yield, increase coffee quality, improve water-use efficiency, reduce pest pressure, and provide numerous ecosystem services to the environment. 

Alley cropping can have many ecological and economical benefits.

  • Reduced soil erosion. Especially when established in sloping areas, alley cropping can slow erosion, thereby improving water quality.

  • Improved crop performance. Added organic matter from trees and shrubs can increase soil productivity. Alley cropping also creates a microclimate from the increased shade and reduced wind, which in turn increases water use efficiency by crops.

  • Reduced use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Weeds are better controlled, and increased nutrient flow improves soil fertility without the use of fertilizers.

  • Minimized nitrogen leaching. Nitrogen leached beyond the cropping root zone is often captured by the deeper tree root systems. Minimizing this leaching improves water quality.

  • Promotion of biodiversity. Planting diverse vegetation provides more wildlife with more potential habitat.

Companion Crops:

The primary factor for selecting the crops within an alley is their sunlight requirement compared to the shade created by the trees or shrubs in the rows. Crops grown in the alleys may change over time as the trees grow and the amount of shade changes.

 

 

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