what is the ALLEY cropping system? This is a system which involves the growing of food crops in spaces between hedgerows of trees or shrubs, which must undergo regular pruning every five or six weeks. The species of plants that can be used for alley cropping system cropping include nitrogen fixing Gliricidia and Leucaena. The spacing of these plants is put at 4 metres between rows, to allow enough space for the growing of food crops. The soil nutrients are recycled through the decomposition of the organic residue.
ADVANTAGES OF ALLEY CROPPING SYSTEM OF FARMING
(i) In the alley cropping system The pruned leaves help in the feeding of ruminants in the dry season as fodder.
(ii) The branches or stems in the alley cropping system are cut and used as yam stakes and firewood.
(iii) The shades provided by the plants help to suppress weed growth.
(iv) The pruned leaves also serve as mulching materials.
(v) The shrubs serve as a barrier when planted across the slope in the control of erosion.
(vi) Alley cropping serves as an alternative to bush fallowing.
(vii) most often in alley cropping systems nitrogen-fixing plants fix nitrogen for the food crops.
The alley cropping system is an agroforestry practice that involves growing crops alongside rows of trees or shrubs. It is a sustainable land-use system that combines the benefits of agriculture and forestry. In alley cropping, the crops are grown in the alleys created between the tree or shrub rows, hence the name \”alley cropping.\”
The key principle behind the alley cropping system is to create a beneficial interaction between the trees/shrubs and the crops. The trees or shrubs provide various benefits such as shade, windbreak, nutrient cycling, and erosion control, while the crops provide an immediate source of income for farmers.
Here are some important aspects and benefits of the alley cropping system:
- Tree or Shrub Selection: The choice of trees or shrubs depends on the specific agroecological conditions and the goals of the farmer. They can be fruit trees, timber trees, nitrogen-fixing trees, or shrubs with multiple uses. The selection is often based on their compatibility with the crops grown in the alleys.
- Alley Management: The width of the alleys and the spacing between trees and crops depend on the management objectives and the types of machinery used. Pruning and management of the trees or shrubs are essential to avoid competition with the crops for resources like sunlight, water, and nutrients.
- Crop Selection: The choice of crops is critical in alley cropping. It is important to select crops that are compatible with the shade and root competition from the tree or shrub species. Some crops that can thrive in alley cropping systems include shade-tolerant vegetables, legumes, and certain cereal crops.
- Erosion Control and Nutrient Cycling: The tree or shrub rows act as windbreaks, reducing soil erosion and protecting the crops. The fallen leaves from the trees contribute organic matter, which improves soil fertility and nutrient cycling in the system.
DISADVANTAGES OF ALLEY CROPPING SYSTEM OF FARMING
(i) The plants used can easily smother the growing food crops if they are not pruned in time.
(ii) Nitrogen supply may be in a shortfall to the crops if non-nitrogen fixing plants are used.
(iii) The system may be difficult to practice on a large scale.
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