Sometimes farmers grow coffee and intercrop it with two or more crops on the same land. This is commonly done in western Uganda; in districts such as Mbarara, Bushenyi, Rukungiri, Mitooma, and Ntungamo.
The reasons for intercropping range from lack of enough land, utilising the spaces between the coffee trees, and to some extent, a need to harvest two or more crops from the same piece of land. At times, the crops may thrive while others, due to some factors, may not grow well.
Crops that grow well when intercropped with coffee include soya, beans and groundnuts. This is because they are short rooted and do not compete with coffee.
If a farmer is to mix coffee with bananas, the banana should be placed eight feet apart for Arabic coffee and ten feet apart for Robusta coffee to avoid competition for soil nutrients
Intercropping with soya, beans and groundnuts should only be done when the coffee is young.
When bananas are more than coffee, chances are that the nutrients for coffee may get depleted, compared to when the coffee trees are more than bananas.
When intercropping bananas with coffee, a farmer should skip three coffee plants on both sides and then plant a banana
Other crops that may be intercropped with coffee are maize and sorghum because they mature faster than coffee. This creates room for it to grow well.
What should be considered is that when intercropping either Arabic or Robusta coffee with these crops, it should be at least more than three years old. When it is younger than three years, it (coffee) may cause them to wither because when growing, coffee uses a lot more soil nutrients compared to maize and sorghum.
When intercropped or not, he advises that the weeding should be done manually and not with a hoe as some farmers mistakenly do.
When you use a hoe, you end up cutting the roots of the coffee plant, which may make it not grow well. The roots, as it grows, spread out to reach soil nutrients in different directions
Arabica coffee grows well in sandy loam soils when intercropped with plants such as bananas. But this is not the case with Robusta because just like bananas, it is also a shallow rooted feeder crop.
When you plant Robusta in the same garden as bananas, it takes up a lot of water from the soil. It is recommended that bananas be intercropped with Robusta coffee when it is more than four years old