Coffee agroforestry systems in Central America: II. Development of a simple process-based model and preliminary results
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Research on coffee agroforestry systems in Central America has identified various environmental factors, management strategies and plant characteristics that affect growth, yield and the impact of the systems on the environment. Much of this literature is not quantitative, and it remains difficult to optimise growing area selection, shade tree use and management. To assist in this optimisation we developed a simple dynamic model of coffee agroforestry systems. The model includes the physiology of vegetative and reproductive growth of coffee plants, and its response to different growing conditions. This is integrated into a plot-scale model of coffee and shade tree growth which includes competition for light, water and nutrients and allows for management treatments such as spacing, thinning, pruning and fertilising. Because of the limited availability of quantitative information, model parameterisation remains fraught with uncertainty, but model behaviour seems consistent with observations. We show examples of how the model can be used to examine trade-offs between increasing coffee and tree productivity, and between maximising productivity and limiting the impact of the system on the environment.