it is difficult to separate the effects of light reduction versus nutrient and water competition in agroforestry systems. the objective of this experiment was to evaluate the effect of shading and fertilizer supply on the vegetative development and yield of coffea arabica over six years. the coffee trees were covered with shade screens (photosynthetically active radiation reduction up to 48%) and fertilized from 100 to 40% of the recommended amount from 2001 on. leaf area, number of leaves, number of nodes, leaf area per branch and, yield were determined. although no effect of fertilization was found, shading influenced the number of nodes, leaf area and production from the third year on. the number of nodes and yield decreased as shading increased. the effect of the yield bienniallity was more evident in the unshaded trees, which yielded an average of 2,646 kg ha1. the trees under 48% shading yielded an average of 2,094 kg ha1. after 2004 the leaf area per branch increased as the shade increased, at the end of both the maximum and minimum growth periods. during the first three years, the coffee trees do not change their vegetative or productive characteristics as a response to shading. the shade effects become more intense after the beginning of the higher yield period. the shaded coffee trees have a larger leaf area and a smaller number of nodes than the coffee trees under full sun. the yield decreases as photosynthetically active radiation limitation increases, and yield bienniallity is less intense in shaded trees.