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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 99 No. 2, p. 325-334
     
    Received: May 3, 2006
    Published: Mar, 2007


    * Corresponding author(s): russelle@umn.edu
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doi:10.2134/agronj2006.0139

Reconsidering Integrated Crop–Livestock Systems in North America

  1. Michael P. Russelle *a,
  2. Martin H. Entzb and
  3. Alan J. Franzluebbersc
  1. a USDA-ARS Plant Sci. Res. Unit and U.S. Dairy Forage Res. Center (Minnesota Cluster), 1991 Upper Buford Cir., Room 439, Univ. of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108
    b Dep. of Plant Sci., Univ. of Manitoba, 222 Agriculture Bldg., Winnipeg, MB Canada R3T 2N2
    c USDA-ARS J. Phil Campbell, Sr., Nat. Res. Conserv. Center, 1420 Experiment Station Rd., Watkinsville, GA 30677-2373

Abstract

Although integrated crop–livestock systems have been employed globally for millennia, in the past century, farmers in North America have tended toward increased specialization. There is renewed interest in reintegrating crops and livestock because of concerns about natural resource degradation, the profitability and stability of farm income, long-term sustainability, and increasing regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations. Integrated crop–livestock systems could foster diverse cropping systems, including the use of perennial and legume forages, which could be grown in selected areas of the landscape to achieve multiple environmental benefits. Integrated systems inherently would utilize animal manure, which enhances soil tilth, fertility, and C sequestration. Integration of crops and livestock could occur within a farm or among farms. Both scales of integration rely on farmers' knowledge, motivation, and resources. Despite the numerous benefits that could accrue if farms moved toward on-farm or among-farm integration of crops and livestock, the complexity of such systems could constrain adoption. However, farmers should expect that adoption of integrated crop–livestock systems would enhance both profitability and environmental sustainability of their farms and communities. The combination of system complexity and potential for public benefit justify the establishment of a new national or international research initiative to overcome constraints and move North American agriculture toward greater profitability and sustainability.

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