Alley cropping is an agroforestry design used to increase food supplies (leaves and other organic waste materials, root tissues and root exudates to our soil ecosystem.[1] Alley cropping also helps with drought-proofing and provides opportunities for us to diversify our income streams by using the alleys to grow additional crops.

Here’s an example showing a winter wheat crop between Hazel trees at the Wakelyns in England.

Alley Cropping in EnglandAnd in Africa, alley cropping maize between young Gliricidia trees (© World Agroforestry Centre, ICRAF).

alley cropping of Gliricdia with maize Here’s Adam Collins showing how he is using this agroforestry solution to integrate trees with his commercial potato and garlic crops.

Getting Practical with Alley Cropping

To get the benefits of alley cropping and other types of agroforestry use species that will grow vigorously in your climate, soil and other growing conditions.[2]

Design your alleys to suit your latitude, climate, and other growing conditions. Adjust the width of your alleys, the space in between the alleys, and the height and density of your tree canopy to suit your conditions.[3] Growing in temperate areas and other higher latitudes, use wider spacings and north-south orientation to maximise sunlight. You can also use other orientations depending on your priorities. For example, at right angles to the wind or across your slope.

In the Learning from Nature – Eco-logical Farming Handbook you’ll get more information on the eco-logical principles of using agroforestry and there is an inventory of agroforestry designs. Front cover Ecological Farming Handbook

The Agroforestry Handbook is another great practical resource. The authors are leading researchers and practitioners with decades of experience in agroforestry from the UK and around the world.

References – Alley Cropping

[1] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, How to Build Healthy Soil – Eco-logically Learning from Nature

[2] Wendy Seabrook, 2021,  Grow Food that looks after Itself! Learning from Nature

[3] Wendy Seabrook, 2022, Eco-logical Farming Handbook, Published by Learning from Nature

 

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