Growing coffee in the shade is quite common in different places around the world. This is especially true for those places where coffee plants benefit from protection against the tropical sun.
Shade cannot, however, be practical in wetter places, as that can only encourage leggy, disease-prone trees. For guidance on best Colombian coffee brands, have a read here.
To create the shade, farmers have to use non-native trees that are well-managed and sometimes sterilized, so that their seeds won’t sprout and compete with the coffee. At times, however, the use of shade by farmers to grow coffee is serendipitous.
Types Of Shade-Grown Coffee
This technique involves growing coffee in an already existent forest. For this one, very few alterations of the native plants are required.
Farmers using this method bring in other plants as well, so that the coffee grows with them. Such plants may include things like vegetables, fruits, and others.
The advantage of this technique is that the produce is diversified, while a farmer still enjoys the benefits of shade-grown coffee.
This method has a lot in common with traditional polyculture. The coffee trees are, however, grown while the shade is reduced.
Produce for this method is higher when compared to traditional polyculture, though one has to use pesticides and fertilizers.
Specialized Or Reduced Shade
This method seeks to reduce shade, as it only uses a single canopy to provide the needed cover.
Unshaded Or Full-Sun Monoculture
This involves growing coffee without any shade, whatsoever, from trees. By using this method, farmers can increase production by a great margin.
To get that, however, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides have to be used a lot. The method is becoming popular, because coffee grown using this technique is cheaper when compared to organic shade-grown coffee.
As such, farmers get a good profit, as consumers enjoy drinking affordable coffee.
Shade-Grown Coffee And Birds
Growing coffee in the shade has been discovered by scientists and bird lovers to be very important for migrating songbirds. One thing that you need to keep in mind is that not all trees can be beneficial for migratory birds.
This is considering that bugs won’t stay on any old tree. As such, the birds won’t be able to eat them, and will lack enough food to sustain their survival.
Results from different bird-watching observatories have shown that birds prefer some tree species, are impartial to others, and will even avoid certain varieties.
For shade-grown coffee to be friendly to birds, farmers should consider planting trees that are preferred by the migratory birds.
Shade-grown coffee is not only friendly to birds, but it’s healthy as well, considering that the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers is greatly reduced.
The only challenge in using this method is that there is less produce, compared to coffee that does not need shade. Consumers have to be willing to pay more for shade-grown coffee, which is healthier.
Shade grown coffee is friendly, not only to migrating birds, but to natural ecosystems as a whole. The forest-like conditions, when growing coffee, make is possible for ecological dynamics to occur.
Benefits include increased bird habitat, erosion control/soil protection, natural pest control, carbon sequestration, and improved pollination.
Shade grown coffee is vital for conservation initiatives. It has a richer taste when compared to other types of coffee.