Puerto Rico Shade Grown Coffee Project
Coffee was traditionally grown under planted shade trees because the coffee plant was domesticated from a shade-tolerant understory forest species. With the advent of inexpensive commercial fertilizer, the coffee plants could be pushed to utilize more sunlight and the shade trees were removed from the coffee system. One unexpected consequence, besides those of increased soil erosion and herbicide use, of this treeless system was the effect this agricultural practice had on migratory birds. Many migratory birds use the trees in large coffee plantations and the loss of this habitat has hurt their numbers.
This producer plans to compare shaded and unshaded coffee plots. He also will incorporate fast growing leguminous tree species and shorter-lived plantains in the coffee plots. He intends to study the effect of the shade by various plants on bird, pest and weed incidence.