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Shade and agronomic intensification in coffee agroforestry systems: trade-off or synergy?

Shade and agronomic intensification in coffee agroforestry systems: trade-off or synergy?

Haggar, Jeremy ORCID: 0000-0002-4682-4879, Casanoves, Fernando, Cerda, Rolando, Cerretelli, Stefania, Gonzalez-Mollinedo, Sergio, Lanza, Gracia, Haggar, Erick, Jeremy, Benjamin and Ospina, Alejandra (2021) Shade and agronomic intensification in coffee agroforestry systems: trade-off or synergy? Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 5:645958. ISSN 2571-581X (Online) (doi:

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Despite many years of research, there is still a lack of consensus as to the nature of the relationship between shade trees and agronomic intensification in coffee agroforestry systems. While some studies find un-shaded intensively managed coffee is the most productive, other studies find no trade-off between shade characteristics and productivity. Our study of 179 farms from the main coffee growing regions of Costa Rica and Guatemala analysed how shade affected the productive response of coffee to intensification of agronomic management. Four levels of coffee productivity were differentiated for each country associated with three levels of shade development in Costa Rica and two levels in Guatemala. The highest coffee productivity group was associated with medium shade development in both countries. High shade groups had low productivity, but very low productivity groups were associated with low (Costa Rica) or medium (Guatemala) shade. Medium and high productivity farms were associated with high elevation, lower rainfall and regions with higher coffee prices. Yield with a moderate level of investment (720-1500 USD−1) and with medium shade (LAI 0.55-1.1) was not significantly different from yields with higher investment or lower shade levels. The increase in yield with increasing N fertilizer application was similar under low, medium and high LAI, but the mean productivity significantly lower with high LAI. Agronomic intensification to increase productivity is equally effective for low and medium shade systems (LAI <1.1); low productivity farms may have high shade or low shade but are mainly limited by low investment. Intensification of production is compatible with medium shade levels that should deliver broader ecosystem services but achieving this depends on coffee prices enabling this investment.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 Haggar, Casanoves, Cerda, Cerretelli, Gonzalez-Mollinedo, Lanza, Lopez, Leiva and Ospina. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Uncontrolled Keywords: coffee agroforestry, ecosystem services, leaf area index, shaded coffee, sustainable agricultural intensification
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Ecosystem Services Research Group
Last Modified: 17 May 2021 09:57

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