Alley cropping with strawberries: Two case-studies in Romania
Authors: Nicolescu, V. N., Hernea, C., Sandi, V.
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The paper focuses on the use of alley cropping, an arable agroforestry system comprising rows of trees planted with a companion crop grown in the alleyways between the rows, in two sub-compartments (81B%: 0.75 ha, elevation 715 m asl; 81E: 3.4 ha, elevation 735 m asl) artificially regenerated at 1.80 m x 1.60 m spacing in the south-east of Transylvania (Romania) in 1997 (81B%) and 2003 (81E). The climate (Dfbx, specific to low and middle mountains) and soil (luvisol, of moderate fertility for pure or mixed Quercus petraea stands) are only moderately favourable to strawberry culture. The rows of tree species consists of Quercus rubra, Acer pseudoplatanus, Prunus avium (81B%), and Quercus petraea, Fagus sylvatica, Acer pseudoplatanus, and Larix decidua (81E). Strawberries (variety Elsanta,) were planted at 60 x 60 cm spacing in two pure rows in-between the tree rows as well as within the rows of planted trees. Both plantations were fenced, with manual topsoil hoeing up to four times a year, lighly fertilized (N, P, K complex) and chemically protected against browsing and pests.
Strawberry rotation (six years, of which five years - two to six - with fruit production) was longer than the one (maximum three years) recommended in pure crops. Strawberry production reached the maximum level in years 3 or 4.
Under the local conditions, the alley cropping with strawberries had demonstrated to be a viable alternative to the 'classical' monocropping system in terms of (a) survival rate of plants (over 95 per cent), (b) initial height growth of plants (very quick, resulting from reduced competition with grasses and naturally regenerated forest trees such as pioneer species), (c) establishment of a new forest culture, the full forest cover being achieved immediately after the end of strawberry production, as well as (d) economics (early and relevant revenue from the crop).