The purpose of this project was to see the difference, in plant health, and presence of wildlife, between coffee grown with and with out shade. And also to see whether using “mani pantanal” as ground cover can control weeds. Our soil has a heavy clay component and is on slopes that vary between 40-60% at altitud of about 2000 ft.. We get about 70 inches of rain per year and our average temperature is 70 F. We planted an acre of land with shade coffee using plantain trees for temporary shade and planting various leguminous trees for permanent shade. We planted by hand, along the contours of the slopes and used vegitative barriers. The shade grew to be very thick. Our advisors recommended that we cut off some of the plantain trees to allow just a little more sun. After we did that the coffee trees showed more growth. The permanent shade trees also did very well. They are now between 21/2-6 ft tall. They grew most in the following order: Brucayo Gigante(Eritrina Poeppigiana), Capa Prieto (Cordia Alliadora) and the Guaba,(Inga Vera) Guama ( Andira Inermis) and Moca (Inga Fagifolia). They are still small trees and it will take 2-5 years before they can give enough shade to the coffee trees without having to use plantain. This made it difficult to measure differences in wildlife, etc.
After starting it in the nursery we planted the “mani pantanal” on ½ acre. It did well in some places but in others it got eaten up by slugs. We had to replant it several times and in some areas it has not covered the soil yet. It had some control over weeds but not over all of them. Where it covered well there were more earthworms and the ground was more humid, but it did not make a difference in the coffee plants. We had to use coffee wastes as fertilizer instead of cow manure because we had problems getting it, due to restrictive health regulations. This held up the application until January so we still cannot see any results. We viewed the project several times with our advisors and other farmers. We are still learning from this experience and believe it will take two more years to really perceive the results.