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Fine-root dynamics of coffee in association with two shade trees in Costa Rica

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Fine-root dynamics (diameter < 2.0 mm) were studied on-farm in associations of Coffea arabica with Eucalyptus deglupta or Terminalia ivorensis and in a pseudo-chronosequence of C. arabica-E. deglupta associations (two, three, four and five years old). Coffee plants were submitted to two fertilisation types. Cores were taken in the 0–40 cm soil profile two years after out-planting and subsequently in the following year in depth layers 0–10 and 10–20 cm, during and at the end of the rainy season, and during the dry season. Fine root density of coffee and timber shade trees was greater in the coffee fertilisation strip as compared to unfertilised areas close to the plants or in the inter-rows. Coffee fine roots were more evenly distributed in the topsoil (0–20 cm) whereas tree fine roots were mostly found in the first 10 cm. Although the two tree species had approximately the same fine root length density, lower coffee / tree fine root length density ratios in T. ivorensis suggest that this shade tree is potentially a stronger competitor with coffee than E. deglupta. Coffee and tree fine root length density for 0–10 cm measured during the rainy season increased progressively from two to five-year-aged associations and coffee fine root length density increased relatively more than E. deglupta fine root length density in the four and five-year-aged plantations suggesting that contrary to expectations, coffee fine roots were displacing tree fine roots.

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Correspondence to Rudi van Kanten.

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van Kanten, R., Schroth, G., Beer, J. et al. Fine-root dynamics of coffee in association with two shade trees in Costa Rica. Agroforest Syst 63, 247–261 (2005).

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