Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 87, Issue 5, pp 1083–1100 | Cite as

Fertilizer type and species composition affect leachate nutrient concentrations in coffee agroecosystems

  • Katherine L. Tully
  • Stephen A. Wood
  • Deborah Lawrence


Intensification of coffee (Coffea arabica) production is associated with increases in inorganic fertilizer application and decreases in species diversity. Both the use of organic fertilizers and the incorporation of trees on farms can, in theory, reduce nutrient loss in comparison with intensified practices. To test this, we measured nutrient concentrations in leachate at 15 and 100 cm depths on working farms. We examined (1) organically managed coffee agroforests (38 kg N ha−1 year−1; n = 4), (2) conventionally managed coffee agroforests (96 kg N ha−1 year−1; n = 4), and (3) one conventionally managed monoculture coffee farm in Costa Rica (300 kg N ha−1 year−1). Concentrations of nitrate (NO3 -N) and phosphate (PO4 3−-P) were higher in the monoculture compared to agroforests at both depths. Nitrate concentrations were higher in conventional than organic agroforests at 15 cm only. Soil solutions collected under nitrogen (N)-fixing Erythrina poeppigiana had elevated NO3 -N concentrations at 15 cm compared to Musa acuminata (banana) or Coffea. Total soil N and carbon (C) were also higher under Erythrina. This research shows that both fertilizer type and species affect concentrations of N and P in leachate in coffee agroecosystems.


Agroforestry Monoculture Coffee Leaching Lysimeters Fertilizer Organic agriculture 



We would like to acknowledge the financial contributions of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, the Raven Society, the Bankard Fund for Political Economy, the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, and the University of Virginia, to this research. Gabriela Soto facilitated the logistics of the fieldwork. We are grateful to our field and lab team at CATIE: Alejandra Hernández Guzmán, Amanda Schwantes, Blanca Salguero Londoño, Mauricio Scheelje, and Patricia Leandro. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the farmers of San Juan Norte, San Juan Sur, and Colorado for giving us access to their farms and welcoming us into their homes.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine L. Tully
    • 1
  • Stephen A. Wood
    • 1
    • 2
  • Deborah Lawrence
    • 3
  1. 1.Agriculture and Food Security Center, The Earth Institute, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology, Evolution & Environmental BiologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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