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Alley Cropping

Learn about alley cropping, including primary Field Office Technical Guide practices, primary purposes, key design elements, and tree/shrub species requirements.


Plantings consisting of trees or shrubs in rows or corridors with alleys of agronomic crops or forage between. Plantings are placed at intervals across a field or unit that, depending on purpose, are perpendicular to the prevailing troublesome winds, on the contour, or at multiples of the widest field equipment width. The products derived from the trees or shrubs or the protected or climatically influenced zones of these plantings achieve desired purposes. Trees or shrubs planted along the edges of "alleys" may consist of one to many rows to insure adequate density of branches, stems and leaves.

Some Primary FOTG Practices for this System

  • Alley Cropping (311)
  • Filter Strip (393), Conservation Crop Rotation (328)
  • Stripcropping, Contour (585), Contour Farming (330)
  • Residue Management (329, 344)
  • Diversion (362), Terrace (600), Grassed Waterway (412)
  • Access Control (472), Fencing (382), Prescribed Grazing (528)
  • Pasture and Hay Planting (512)
  • Mulching (484)
  • Irrigation System (441), Irrigation Water Management (449)
  • Nutrient Management (590), Pest Management (595)

Primary Purposes

1) To produce wood or tree products in addition to agronomic crops or forage, 2) To improve crop or forage quality and quantity by enhancing microclimatic conditions, 3) To improve utilization and recycling of soil nutrients for crop or forage use, 4) To reduce excess subsurface water or control water table depths, 5) To provide favorable habitat for species beneficial to crops or forage.

Key Design Elements

30-100% density barriers with rows at intervals across field to achieve intended purpose and tailored to equipment widths. Intervals are wide enough to allow sufficient light to agronomic crops in the alleys.

Tree/Shrub Species Requirements

  • Adapted to the soil and climate of the planting site.
  • Produce wood, fruit or fodder suited to the purpose of planting.
  • Resistance to pests and herbicides.
  • Tolerant of sediment deposition and pollutant-laden runoff
  • Resistance to stem and branch breakage from high winds, ice, snow.