Developing legume shade trees for Sustainable coffee production in Puerto Rico

2004 Annual Report for LS04-162

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $195,298.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Principal Investigator:
Eduardo Schröder
University of Puerto Rico

Developing legume shade trees for Sustainable coffee production in Puerto Rico


Coffee production in Puerto Rico is located in the central mountain region, mostly on acid, highly erodible soils. Many small and medium scale farmers have limited resources and use questionable practices. Long-term, sustainable coffee production using environmentally sound practices should include shade trees and, if possible, fast-growing, nitrogen fixing trees (FGNFT). In an effort to increase coffee production, sun grown coffee was promoted by the Agriculture Department. Unfortunately, this system of production requires high inputs and is environmentally damaging. To help coffee farmers, we will determine the best agroecological zone, evaluate legume tree species with potential for shade use, and determine management alternatives for high-quality, sustainable coffee production.

Objective 1. Survey present coffee production systems used by farmers in Puerto Rico

The overall project has been delayed by unforsee circumstance. By the time (August 2004) the University of Puerto Rico opened an account (#5-33502) at the Finance Department (Special programs), the Puerto Rico goverment has just started a hiring freeze. The law takes effect several months before the elections (November 2, 2004), and the freeze extends up to January, 2005, when the new goverment is in place. As soon as the freeze was lifted, the UPRM Human Resources Office published an announcement offering the Technical Research position requested in the proposal. But there were questionings from the Agronomist Association, and it was necessary to reissue the announcement. Further delays ocurred because the Human Resources office from the University President was not delivering the position exact requirements for appointing. Finally, I was able to interview 10 candidates during tha last week of March. After the first candidate was selected and approved by the Chancellor, the candidate asked for a few days to evaluate if taking the position, and then turned it down. A second candidate was selected, accepted the position, and his appointment was approved by the Chancellor. Therefore, only by May 9, 2005, Mr. Lionel Cruz, an agronomist with an M.S. degree in soils was hired and started working for the Project. All this paperwork consumed a lot of time and effort of the Principal Investigator, and the whole project has therefore been delayed.

A second reason for the project unusual delay has been the fact that part of the objectives will be carried out as research for their M.S. degree of two graduate students. But the course load during their first year is very heavy, leaving few hours to first get acquainted with the project, writing their proposals and learning some of the tools they will be using. Since the second semester will end in May, 2005, we hope that both graduate students and technician work fully for the project starting in June 2005.

Objective 2. Evaluate the potential value of fast growing nitrogen fixing trees for the production of shade coffee.
The list of potential trees to evaluate as shade has been updated and slightly expanded, covering now 42 different species,

Objective 1.

Due to the delay in starting the project, there are not many contributions or impacts yet. However, an outline of the project was developed for a poster presentation. It was shown at the SOPCA (Puerto Rico Agricultural Sciences Society) Annual Scientific Meeting, held in Arroyo, PR on December 3, 2004. That information will be used to introduce the project when visiting farmers or agencies.
Field testing of the questionaire has been carried out. We have gather the information and prepared a digital map of the soils represented in the coffee region. We will also obtain a database of the climate data from NOAA and other sources, but information regarding solar radiation seems to be very scarce or almost lacking. Therefore, characterizing the coffee agroecological zone will be a complex task.

Objective 2.

The difficulties we faced to obtain seed from different species are an indication that the commercial expansion of shaded coffee in Puerto Rico will be limited by the availability of seed, although several species can be multiplied by cuttings. With the soil map information obtained from Objective 1, two representative soils will be selected and samples obtained to use as growing media for the legume tree species to be evaluated for growth and N fixation potential. The information obtained will be utilized to recommend the best species for coffee shade, and if possible, under what management conditions, to farmers and extension agents.


Wigmar González-Muñiz

Agricultural Experiment Station
HC-01 Box 4508
Adjuntas, PR 00601-9717
Office Phone: 7878290012
Luis Mejía
Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator
University of Puerto Rico
Agricultural Extension Service
Department of Agricultural Economics
Mayagüez, PR 00681-9030
Office Phone: 7878324040
Miguel Monroig

Extension Specialist
Agricultural Extension Service
University of Puerto Rico
PO Box 9030
Mayagüez, PR 00681
Office Phone: 7872654130