Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Strategies to Predict and Manipulate Responses of Crops and Crop Disease to Anticipated Changes of Carbon Dioxide, Ozone and Temperature

Location: Plant Science Research

Title: Integrated crop–livestock systems: Strategies to achieve synergy between agricultural production and environmental quality

Authors
item Lemaire, Gilles -
item Franzluebbers, Alan
item DE Faccio Carvalho, Paulo Cesar -
item Dedieu, Benoit -
item Herrero, Mario -

Submitted to: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 19, 2013
Publication Date: June 26, 2014
Citation: Lemaire, G., Franzluebbers, A.J., De Faccio Carvalho, P., Dedieu, B., Herrero, M. 2014. Integrated crop–livestock systems: Strategies to achieve synergy between agricultural production and environmental quality. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 190:4-8.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural production and environmental protection need to be balanced to meet food security and sustainability goals. An ARS scientist at the Plant Science Research Unit in Raleigh North Carolina teamed with scientists from the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) in Lusignan and Saint-Genès-Champanelle France and Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre Brazil to introduce a themed scientific symposium on how integrated crop-livestock systems might be a solution to the dichotomy between high agricultural production requirements for food security and environmental protection needed for ecological sustainability. Loss of diversity within agricultural systems at field, farm and landscape scales was identified as a key issue dividing the approaches, and therefore, a solution proposed is for integrated crop-livestock systems to increase diversity at various spatial and temporal scales so that high production and environmental quality can be simultaneously achieved. To increase diversity, local integration of cropping with livestock systems is suggested, which would allow (i) better regulation of biogeochemical cycles and decreased environmental fluxes to the atmosphere and hydrosphere through spatial and temporal interactions among different land-use systems; (ii) a more diversified and structured landscape mosaic that would favor diverse habitats and trophic networks; and iii) greater flexibility of the whole system to cope with potential socio-economic and climate change induced hazards and crises. Integrated crop-livestock systems could be a key form of ecological intensification needed for achieving future food security and environmental sustainability.

Technical Abstract: A need to increase agricultural production across the world for food security appears to be at odds with the urgency to reduce agriculture’s negative environmental impacts. We suggest that a cause of this dichotomy is loss of diversity within agricultural systems at field, farm and landscape scales. To increase diversity, local integration of cropping with livestock systems is suggested, which would allow (i) better regulation of biogeochemical cycles and decreased environmental fluxes to the atmosphere and hydrosphere through spatial and temporal interactions among different land-use systems; (ii) a more diversified and structured landscape mosaic that would favor diverse habitats and trophic networks; and iii) greater flexibility of the whole system to cope with potential socio-economic and climate change induced hazards and crises. The fundamental role of grasslands on the reduction of environmental fluxes to atmosphere and hydrosphere operates through the coupling of C and N cycles within vegetation, soil organic matter and soil microbial biomass. Therefore, close association of grassland systems with cropping systems should help mitigate negative environmental impacts resulting from intensification of cropping systems and improve the quality of grasslands through periodic renovations. However, much research is needed on designing appropriate spatial and temporal interactions between these systems to achieve the greatest benefits in different agro-ecological regions. We postulate that development of modern integrated crop-livestock systems to increase food production at farm and regional levels could be achieved, while improving many ecosystem services. Integrated crop-livestock systems, therefore, could be a key form of ecological intensification needed for achieving future food security and environmental sustainability.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page