Legumes Withe Your Coffee?

Undercropping coffee with a shade-tolerant legume increased coffee yields and provided high-quality fodder crop in ILCA trials in Ethiopia. In traditional farming systems in regions of Ethiopia, coffee is monocropped and allowed to grow unpruned, creating a canopy. Weeds that grow in the shade canopy are cut to facilitate coffee harvesting and then used for fodder.

In these densely populated areas with high rainfall, available land is usually not used for forage, but cultivated for food crops. Planting a legume with coffee greatly increases the efficiency of this traditional system.

Desmodium intortum cv Greenleaf is the shade-tolerant, high-quality forage legume used in the ILCA experiment. Three on-farm coffee plots were chosen near Soddo, Ethiopia. The soils were Nitosols, at an altitude of 1900m, with annual rainfall of 1100mm. Coffee had been planted in the area for several years, fertilized sporadically with animal manure, and plowed occasionally.

Coffee yields increased when plants wrer undercropped with Greenleaf. The legume grew well with coffee, and regrowth was vigorous after being severely cut back. Additional experiments with fertilizer were planned to determine the applicability of the findings to the small farmer.

Undercropping coffee trees with forage legumes: feed for livestock, and more coffee. ILCA Newsletter (October 1989) 8(4): 8.