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< Return to featured NbS Science

Coffee agroforestry systems capable of reducing disease-induced yield and economic losses while providing multiple ecosystem services

April 14, 2020
News item image Coffee production in Central America has been struggling due to disease outbreaks, such as the 2011-12 coffee leaf rust outbreak which caused average yield to drop by 20% in the following years.

Cerda et al. 2020

Agroforestry is a nature-based approach to agricultural production, with great potential for providing sustainable food security. This study looks at ecosystem services and disease in 61 smallholder coffee plots in Turrialba, Costa Rica. The authors found the six coffee agroforestry systems with the most promise for reducing losses to disease, whilst providing high yields of agroforestry products (fruit and timber), maintaining of soil fertility, and sequestering carbon. The authors then identified characteristics to guide improved implementation of coffee agroforestry.

For example, they deduce that coffee trees can be managed at densities of up to 350 trees per hectare, depending on the tree species and goals of the farmer, and that shade cover should not surpass 35%, being lower in systems with a high density of musaceae (e.g. banana) plants. The authors suggest that weed control should ideally be done three times a year, but herbicide use should be limited, whilst fertilizer should be applied at least once a year. The paper also identified some trade-offs, such as maximising carbon sequestration in fruit trees coming at the expense of disease regulation.

Read the paper here. For a review of the relationship between agroforestry and disease in other crops, see here.