Traditionally, the producer used shade trees, mulching and a trimmer to manage weeds. However, after hurricane Georges eliminated the tree canopy, she was forced to rely on more aggressive practices for the management of weeds. In her project, she developed an environmentally sensitive and cost-effective herbicide program along with the use of perennial herbaceous species, to use as living mulch, on her farm.
Looking for ways to produce sustainable coffee, an agroforestry practice of alley cropping was implemented three coffee plantations: one using only Calliandra calothyrsus in “Loma de la Composta”, another using a mixture of Calliandra calothyrsus and Leucaena diversifolia in “El Tajo” and the third only with Leucana diversifolia in “El Costado”. The weed management was done with the help of the shading trees (mostly Inga vera and the alley cropping), mulching and a trimmer.
Because of the recuperation of the alley cropping we were unable to make an inference about the effects of the herbicide applications. The effectiveness of the cover crops was not able to be assessed and the fertility program was delayed due to the unexpected illness of the producer.
The alley cropping in combination with the live mulch moved us toward a more sustainable system. After hurricane Georges, the only fertilization done to the three coffee plantations was the pruning of the alley cropped trees and broadcasting it over the whole area. The fertility program was done only to the twenty five plots sowed to cover crops. The production of coffee was 1999 (0 pounds), 2000 (55 pounds), 2001 (53.8 pounds), 2002 (352.8 pounds); an increment of 85% between 2001 and 2002. The alley cropping is helping us to move toward sustainability.