In May 2015 we started building our alley cropping system which is 1ha (50m x 200m). The soil is composed of clay and silt with a low level of organic matter. The year before the field was not cropped but harrowed multiple times.
We began with measuring 12m from the center between the rows of trees and bushes. After that we plowed as deep as possible to open up to aerate the soil.
The plow was equipped with a selfmade subsoiler which dug down to 70cm depth.
After that we plowed the soil back into the rows.
The rows are oriented in a north-south direction.
Then we planted different varieties of apple and pear trees.
We also planted different varieties of sea buckthorn.
We seeded a mixture of pea and rye between the rows of trees and bushes.
In the beginning we regulary irrigated the recently planted trees and bushes.
Shortly after we installed the drip irrigation system. In the picture above you can see it in the row of saskatoon serviceberry.
At the end of August we planted different varieties of hazelnut bushes.
Despite the rainfall, many visitors came to see the new alley cropping system.
In the picture above you can see how we harvest our spring rye.
Plowing alongside the growing trees in October.
January 2016. A barrier net to protect from predators such as wild hares, wild boars and deers.
In the middle of May we seeded the field with oats and underseeded with clover and grass for the coming years.
We weeded close to the bushes using a rototiller.
We also used battery powered weed whackers.
Oats growing in the alley cropping field at the end of August 2016.
We harvested the oats at the end of September 2016.
In 2017 this is the first of several harvests for silage during the third year of our alley cropping field.
Bailing the wet grass for silage in June 2017.
This is the second grass harvest in August of the same year.
Despite the strong frost in spring we still had a good apple harvest especially of the variety Katja.
The sea buckthorn bushes have grown in two years from 20cm to 1.5m.
This resulted in a good harvest in 2017.
Harvesting the ley in 2018.
Plowing the grassland in 2018.
The service berries bushes in 2019.
The service berries were easy to harvest and resulted in a great amount.
Harvesting the autum wheat in 2019.
New fenced area reinforced with stronger metal net and robinia posts.
The field was not cropped but harrowed multiple times before new raws can be implanted 2020.
Harvest of oats August 2020. The oat is underseeded with lay for the years 2021 and 2022.
Baling of oat straw, August 2020.
Overall it was easy to continue with the seeding of different ecological crops in between the rows of trees and bushes. It was also easy to plant and support the trees and bushes as well as install and use the drip irrigation system. However, it is necessary to weed the areas between the trees and bushes at least three times in the season while establishing the cropping system. It will be interesting to see if this alley cropping system can increase the amount of carbon storage, lower nutrient leackage and improve soil fertility. We hope that in future this system can provide a good economy, as well as strengthen the life supporting systems in the farm.
During the early 19th century in Le Mans in France, it was usual to find trees included in every cropping field.