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Alley Cropping

AN AGROFORESTRY PRACTICE

This presentation was developed by the USDA National Agroforestry Center


Presentation Objectives
2

Define alley cropping


Describe the benefits
Explain the basic design
considerations
Identify potential crops
and species

Alley Cropping
What is Agroforestry?
3

the intentional combining of


agriculture and working trees to
create sustainable farming systems.
Riparian buffer

Forest farming

Silvopasture Alley cropping


Windbreaks
Alley Cropping
What is Alley Cropping?
4

the planting of trees or


shrubs in two or more
sets of single or multiple
rows with agronomic,
horticultural, or forage
crops cultivated in the
alleys between the rows
of woody plants.

Poplar and wheat

Alley Cropping
Alley Cropping is not..
5

Corn with two pecans

Alley Cropping
Why use Alley Cropping?
6

Improves crop or forage quality and quantity by


enhancing microclimate
Improves crop diversity, and economic returns
Increases net carbon storage in the soil and
vegetation
Improves utilization and recycling of soil nutrients
Decreases off site movement of nutrients or
chemicals
Provides or enhances wildlife habitat

Alley Cropping
Benefits
7

Improves crop or forage quality and quantity by


enhancing microclimate
Improves the
microenvironment to
increase crop yields
Protects alleyway crops
from physical damage
from winds or from soil
particles blown into the
plant tissue which
bruises or degrades
Black walnut with hay quality

Alley Cropping
Benefits
8

Improve Crop Diversity, and Economic Returns

Allows production of annual


crops for needed cash flow
while at the same time
growing longer term woody
investments.
Allows two annual crops to
be grown on the same
acreage such as a forage or
Taro row crop and nut or fruit
crops
Allows crop diversity which
reduces risk
Elderberry

Alley Cropping
Benefits
9

Increases net carbon storage in the soil and


vegetation
Roots, crop residue,
leaves and forage add to
soil carbon
Tree component adds to
total potential carbon
stored on site through
long term sequestration
in the above ground and
below ground biomass

Alley Cropping
Benefits
10

Improves utilization and recycling of soil nutrients

Tree roots are generally


deeper than crop roots
Nutrients and chemicals
that pass through crop root
zone are intercepted by trees
Nutrients are utilized by the
trees and recycled back to
the soil surface by leaf drop

Alley Cropping
Benefits
11

Decreases off site movement of nutrients or


chemicals - surface

Trees planted on contour


trap sediment and residue
along with attached
nutrients and chemicals
Infiltration increases in
tree rows decreasing
overland flow and
associated movement of
soluble nutrients and
chemicals off site

Alley Cropping
Benefits
12

Decreases off site movement of nutrients or


chemicals - subsurface
Tree roots are generally
deeper than crop roots
Nutrients and chemicals
that pass through crop
root zone are intercepted
by the woody plants
Nutrients are utilized by
the woody plants and
recycled back to the soil
surface

Alley Cropping
Benefits
13

Provides or enhances wildlife habitat


Provides food and cover
through a diversity of
plants
Creates vertical habitat
structure
Improves pollinator
foraging and nesting
habitat
Builds travel corridors for
wildlife movement to
connect to other food,
cover, or water resources

Alley Cropping
Alley Cropping - Issues
14

Involves intensive
management
May remove land from
annual production,
depending on the tree
crop
May complicate herbicide
application
Requires marketing
infrastructure for woody
plant products Coffee under macadamia trees

Alley Cropping
Design Considerations
15

Light requirement for the crop or forage to be grown


in the alley way
Root Competition between crops
Type and size of the equipment being used

Tree Shade Root


Species Produced Competition
Black walnut Low Low
Pecan Medium Medium
Oak High Medium
Pine High Medium-high

Alley Cropping
Tree or Shrub Criteria for Alley Cropping
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Marketable
Yields annual or periodic commercial product
(wood, nuts or fruit)
Appropriate shade for the alley crop
Minimal roots at soil surface
Adapted to site and soils
Foliage residue does not interfere with alley crop
Growth requirements complement alley crop

Alley Cropping
Potential Trees
17

Walnut
Pecan Pine
Chestnut
Pine
Poplar

Tropical: Coffee

Coffee
Coconut Palm
Leucaena
Walnut
Eucalyptus
Leucaena
Papaya
Alley Cropping
Potential Shrubs
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Hazelnut/filbert, (nuts)
Willow, dogwood (decorative florals)
Chokecherry, highbush cranberry,
currant, elderberry, saskatoon, gooseberry, Hazelnut

sugar apple, pomegranate (fruits)

Willow
Sugar apple

Saskatoon
Pomegranate
Alley Cropping
Potential Alley Way Crops
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Row/cereal crops (corn,


soybeans, milo, wheat)
Forage crops (legumes,
grasses)
Specialty crops (vegetables,
fruits, flowers, medicinals)
Biomass (energy,
feedstock)

Biomass alley crop Pecans and hay

Alley Cropping
For Additional Information
20

Where is there more information on alley cropping?


A number of web sites are available to provide more detailed
information on alley cropping systems. Here are a few :

USDA National Agroforestry Center


http://www.unl.edu/nac/alleycropping.htm
The Center for Agroforestry
http://www.centerforagroforestry.org/practices/ac.php
Association for Temperate Agroforestry
http://www.aftaweb.org/alley_cropping.php
The Overstory
http://agroforestry.net/overstory/osprev.html

Alley Cropping
Summary Alley Cropping
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Increased crop production


Enhanced economic diversification
Improved crop protection
Better nutrient utilization
Coconuts
Improved soil and water quality and beans

Lettuce intercrop
followed with pumpkins Pine and cotton

Alley Cropping
Acknowledgements
22

This presentation was developed by the USDA


National Agroforestry Center (NAC), Lincoln NE.

NAC is a USDA partnership between the U.S.


Forest Service and the Natural Resources
Conservation Service.

A partnership of:
National
Agroforestry
Center

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Alley Cropping