|AFSRC Research Priorities Summary|
Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center
Allocation: $8.1 million total allocation to USDA-ARS
We design management practices that sustain productivity and profitability of pasture-based livestock systems and deliver improved soil, water and air quality based on sound scientific principles. Our work contributes directly to:
Our customers are small-scale (<150 acres) and often part-time farmers and land-owners who operate independently or are aligned with local or regional groups (e.g., West Virginia Shepherds’ Federation, Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Master Gardeners’ Workshops in association with state cooperative extension services). In-house scientific capacity (13 staff scientists and 40 technical and administrative support staff) is augmented through specific cooperative agreements with West Virginia University, West Virginia State University, Mountain State University, Concord University, Virginia Tech, Miami University of Ohio, and The Ohio State University. We collaborate with numerous USDA-ARS locations and other universities through informal agreements.
Plants are the point of entry of energy into agro-ecosystems. Plants convert light energy and carbon dioxide into biomass. We discover ways to make agricultural systems less vulnerable to climatic and resource variation within and among years. Doing so minimizes risk and stabilizes the production of herbage mass (biomass) and herbage nutritive value for beef and milk cattle, sheep, goats, etc. The primary goals of our work contribute to fundamental understanding of agro-ecosystem response to climate change food safety and food production security research priorities of USDA-ARS.
We develop systems that improve small-acreage farm productivity and sustainability within the Appalachian region. We do this by reducing risk through multi-cropping sequences and plant communities (e.g., silvopastoral practices that provide wood-biofuel, forage for sheep, goats, beef cattle, and understory crops). Technology is applicable to hill-land environments world-wide with resource and climatic features similar to those of central Appalachia. These production systems are resilient to climatic variability. We design grazing systems for small-acreage farms that accommodate the soil, plant and animal resources capable of adapting to within and among year weather patterns.
Food Safety - local production, nutritional composition, external inputs
We discover bioactive pasture plants materials that can help maintain sheep and goat health. Decreasing the need to administer pharmaceutical products can help reduce production costs and minimize the quantity of drugs administered to grazing animals. These practices will provide safer meat products for consumers and reduce pharmaceutical residues entering soil and water resources. Management practices are designed to meet livestock nutritional needs while preventing chemical and biological contamination of water resources.
Global Food Security
We develop management strategies for cattle, sheep and goat production on terrain not suitable for cultivated row crops to help diversify food production and directly support local food production systems. Locally produced livestock can contribute significantly to food availability and can provide additional sources of meat products for the growing US and world populations. Also, local sources provide alternative resources of meat should concentrated livestock production systems in the U.S. become compromised. Our work with West Virginia University, Clemson University and Virginia Tech shows that pasture-based livestock meat composition can provide health conscious consumers with a lower fat and cholesterol product compared to conventionally produced beef.