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Manayan Farm, Malalam, Ilagan

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Alley Cropping

Article Index

The first video summarizes the general ideas related to the "Wind breaks and Forest Zones" planned for the EcoCulture project to create a more eco-diverse and bio-diverse farm system. Here's a summary from the video:

"Alley Cropping is planting rows of trees at wide spacings with a companion crop grown in the alleyways between the rows. Alley cropping can diversify farm income, improve crop production and provide protection and conservation benefits to crops. Common examples of alley cropping plantings include wheat, corn, soybeans or hay planted in between rows of black walnut or pecan trees. Non-traditional or value added crops may also be incorporated for extra income, including sunflowers or medicinal herbs planted in between rows of nut trees alternated with nursery stock trees. Fine hardwoods like walnut, oak, ash, and pecan are favored tree species in alley cropping systems and can potentially provide high value lumber or veneer logs while income is derived from a companion crop planted in the alleyways. "


I included the video above because it provides a very good introduction to Alley Cropping and why farmers should practice it, as well as how to do it. A good advice, before you begin Alley Cropping, you must know your final goal, so that the cropping will achieve your end goal.  

East-West Orientation and Contour Planting


East-West Orientation of Trees
East-West Orientation of Trees. Tall trees used may be oriented in an East-West direction to allow alley cropping of plants that require ample sunlight for growth. For windbreak purposes,   the trees must be planted perpendicular to the wind direction. The cartoon given may not be the best practice, if indeed the land is inclined as represented. The soil will erode during the rainy season. One solution to this would be to plant rows of deep-rooted plants, like Vetiver grass, along the contour of the land. They grow fast to form a compact straight rooting system (up to 4 meters deep or longer as they mature over the years) to anchor the soil. Further, its straight leaves forms a dense swirl that would also serve as porous dam above the surface to slow rainwater cascading down the inclined land; in the process, it aids in rainwater percolation in the subsurface to increase underground water reserve.

While biodiverse, the farm ecosystems presented in the first video are still rooted on the ways of monoculture agriculture.  In part, that is because mechanization is integral in most traditional American agriculture, especially as more people have left the farms to pursue other vocations and interest.