Farming with Grass May be Just Right for 21st
Century By Don
Comis June 9, 2009
Grass and other perennial plants may be just what the doctor ordered
for farmers facing the uncertainties of climate change. And beef and dairy
products from free-ranging, grass-fed cattle--along with legumes and grains
grown in addition to grass--may be just what the doctor ordered for consumers.
That's the "post-oil agriculture" vision portrayed by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and other participants at the Farming with Grass Conference held in
Oklahoma in 2008. In 2009, the Soil and Water
Conservation Society published the proceedings from that conference in an
online book titled "Farming with Grass."
Franzluebbers co-wrote the foreword to the book and the closing chapter,
"Expanding Horizons of Farming with Grass." Steiner is at the ARS
Research Laboratory in El Reno, Okla. Franzluebbers is at the ARS
Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center in Watkinsville, Ga.
The closing chapter was written with Constance L. Neely, vice
International in Little Rock, Ark. Steiner, Franzluebbers and Neely explain
that perennial plants, in diverse agricultural systems, have great potential to
enhance resilience against uncertain climate and market conditions.
Steiner's ARS colleagues
Northup--who co-wrote their own chapter on forage-based beef
production--are in the second year of a 5-year study to develop a system to
produce grass-fed beef for the southern Great Plains. Phillips and Northup are
at the ARS lab in El Reno. ARS scientists in Booneville, Ark.; Mandan, N.D.;
and Watkinsville, Ga., are also looking for innovative ways to include grazing
cattle in economically diverse farming systems.
In summarizing stories from the conference, participants envisioned
mixed livestock, perennial plants, and other crops, instead of large stands of
a single-row crop monoculture. The goal is to sustain farms and rural
communities both economically and environmentally, while offering local,
healthy foods and other new products.
"Farming with Grass" can be downloaded for $24 at:
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency in the
U.S. Department of