Precious Indigenous Woods For Coffee Shade

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2007: $14,967.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Principal Investigator:
Jose Aponte
El Caribe RC&D

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: native plants, trees, ornamentals
  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: housing
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, hedgerows, riparian buffers, soil stabilization, wildlife
  • Pest Management: chemical control, physical control, cultivation
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, employment opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    Coffee, one of the largest agricultural sectors with 14,000 limited resource farmers, was introduced to Puerto Rico in 1755. Coffee was first produced in Puerto Rico by thinning native woodland and then planting coffee. The original coffee farmers soon came to identify native species with the best characteristics for coffee shade and wind protection from hurricanes. These original species were later replaced primarily with Inga vera for uniform shade. This resulted in a bicultural production system. This was even later replaced by mono cultured full sun coffee which is not appreciated by environmentalists because of the environmental degradation in this ecological zone. Seventy percent of the crop is full sun coffee; the other thirty percent is shade coffee grown under traditional tree species such as Inga vera and Gliricidia sepium. Sun grown coffee is not sustainable because of the following reasons: * limited returns at the farm level * hurricanes damage in coffee plantations * increase erosion and reduced bio-diversity At present time limited returns at the farm level is causing a serious threat to the Coffee Industry in Puerto Rico. The Coffee Industry transitioning from a protected market to an open market is due to US trade agreements. Coffee producers are responding by attempting to produce world class coffee in order to enter gourmet and specialty markets. They are also interested in coffee shade trees that produce a higher return and are potentially as valuable as the coffee. The coffee with the highest potential to enter international markets is the higher elevation coffee above 2,400 feet in elevation. The coffee has special conservation needs to control erosion. Traditional shade agro forestry systems are not usually acceptable as they lead to more fungus problems in this cooler environment. Alley cropping (usually on the contour) is more suited to providing the lighter shade needed in this system. Alley cropping is also an excellent method to reduce hurricane damage in coffee as alley cropping also functions as windbreaks. The sun grown coffee has increased erosion and reduced bio-diversity. A massive destruction to our forest areas was caused by this mono cultured system; buffers zones have been destroyed. Native wood trees had been removed; some of these are threatened and endangered species. Sun grown coffee in this region requires high application levels of chemical products and fertilizers. Sediment accumulation has greatly reduced the storage capacity of the principal water-supply reservoirs in Puerto Rico.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We propose to combine coffee with non-traditional precious wood trees to provide for a sustainable coffee producing area. Precious wood trees have never been planted for shade in Puerto Rico's coffee region. We want to look more on native precious woods because it will have more economic impact for farmers. These species are also much sought after by the local artesian industry for furniture, craft items, boats, decks, cabinets, yachts among other wood products.

    This project seeks to research native precious wood species for suitability to alley cropping systems to produce higher elevation gourmet coffee. Some of these trees such as Manilkara bidentata, Buchenavia tetraphylla and Bucida buceras L., are deep rooted and well adapted to resisting hurricane and high wind problems.

    Besides higher returns, precious woods provide shade on coffee crops and other multiple benefits on natural resources. The planting of these species would assist in bio-diversity concerns on the island. They will protect soil from erosion, and improve water quality and quantity of reservoirs in the coffee region. Tree species such as Thespesia grandiflora, Hibiscus elatus Sw. and Ocotea moschata are excellent for the establishment riparian forest buffers. The entire coffee region (75,000 acres) has been programmed to be part of the ecological corridor of Puerto Rico. This project is a great opportunity to preserve native precious woods. Several of these species are threatened species.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.