Alley Cropping 
      An Agroforestry Practice

Courtesy of University of Minnesota Extention Service, Copyright 2000.


What is agroforestry?

Agroforestry is a crop-based farming system characterized by the 
complete integration of trees with annual crops and/or livestock. (Beets)

Click here to view illustrations of various agroforestry practices.

What is alley cropping?

Links to related sites.



WHAT is alley cropping? 

Alley cropping or hedgerow intercropping is an agroforestry practice in which perennial, preferably leguminous trees or shrubs are grown simultaneously with an arable crop. The trees, managed as hedgerows, are grown in wide rows and the crop is planted in the interspace or 'alley' between the tree rows. During the cropping phase the trees are pruned and the prunings used as green manure or mulch on the crop to improve the organic matter status of the soil and to provide nutrients, particularly nitrogen, to the crop. Alley cropping retains the basic restorative attributes of the bush fallow system, allowing the farmer to crop the land for an extended period. (Kang & Gutteridge)

To view a photo of alleycropping with Leucaena leucocephala  in Kenya click here.
For a photo example of intercropping in France click here.

WHY practice alley cropping? 

"In the West, there is a problem of overproduction and conspicuous consumption. In the developing countries, the problem is insufficient production resulting in food shortages, poverty and hunger... there is a need to grow more food and make it available to the masses... this can best be done by raising the productivity of the numerous smallholdings".  (Beets)


    • Improve economic stability.

        Additional products such as forage and firewood provides an extra source of  income for the farmer. This kind of diversification makes the agroforestry practice of alley cropping  more economically sustainable over the long-term. 

    • Improve crop performance, increase productivity.

        Increased soil productivity comes from the addition of nutrients and organic matter in the form of mulch. Lower soil temperatures result in less evaporation and improved soil structure and water use. Crop production benefits from improved soil conditions.

    • Reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

        Improvements in nutrient flow and erosion reduction, in addition to better weed control, lessen the need for chemical enhancements and combattants. 

    • Increase overall sustainability (environmental and economic).

        Alley cropping's integrated approach to crop production (e.g., ameliorated soil, product diversification, and a physical environment which is better utilized by a larger number of wildlife species) increases both short and long-term sustainability. 


HOW does it work?

The design of any particular alley cropping system must consider the following: 

  • Amount and distribution of annual rainfall.
  • Compatibility between shrub and tree species and crop types.
  • Spacing between rows.
  • Light requirements of selected crops.
  • Direction of sun.
  • Maintenance considerations and available resources.


    Alley Cropping Links

    Alley Cropping: Sarah H. Chen and Erik C.M. Fernandes

    Alley Cropping Systems

    Silvoarable - Intercropping and Alley Cropping

    Sustainable Settings

    Alley Farming in Australia

    Alley Cropping in the Tropics

    Agroforesty Links  -  Your Resource for Tropical Forestry and Agroforestry

    USDA National Agroforestry Center

    University of Minnesota Extension: Agroforestry Opportunities

    International Centre for Research in Agroforestry

    University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry

    Agroforestry Research Trust

    The purpose of this website is to provide an introduction to the concept and practice of agroforestry, alley cropping specifically, and to act as a gateway to more information. Feedback is appreciated.

    Created on April 18, 2002 by: 

    Adrienne M. Blauser
    Masters International Candidate, Forestry
    Michigan Tech University
    Houghton, MI

    In fulfillment of a course assignment for:

    Dr. Blair Orr
    Trees in Agricultural Systems